Rocket Women: Q&A with Diana Calero, Launch Vehicle Certification Manager

Diana Calero, of NASA’s Launch Services Program, works with emerging commercial space flight launch companies as they develop their launch vehicles. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP), based at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is responsible for pairing the agency’s scientific and robotic missions with launch services from commercial partners. From launching Mars rovers to Earth-observing satellites, LSP has enabled exploration since 1998. As the nation celebrates Women’s History Month, get to know one woman making LSP missions possible.

With a career spanning 30 years, Diana Calero, launch vehicle certification manager, works with emerging commercial space flight launch companies as they develop their launch vehicles, such as Blue Origin’s New Glenn, ULA’s Vulcan, and SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy. Her responsibility as the certification manager is to work closely with these companies to assure their launch vehicles can be certified to launch future NASA payloads.

Additionally, Calero is working on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) as the LSP mission manager. In this role, she is providing expertise to integrate and launch the telescope on a European Ariane 5 launch vehicle.

Diana Calero is working on the James Webb Space Telescope as the Launch Services Program mission manager. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy being able to learn about the new launch vehicles that are being designed by private companies that will eventually provide NASA with more flexibility in accessing space. The highlight of my job, and what I have always enjoyed, is working with such a large group of diverse individuals from all over the world. This includes launch vehicle contractors, spacecraft customers and builders, inter-agency personnel, foreign governments and industry. I enjoy getting to know different people, their customs, and learning from them.

Who inspires you most?

I’m constantly being inspired with every mission we launch, knowing that I had a role to play with each success and, more importantly, that it helped advance technology and well-being in our world.

When did you first realize you had a passion for STEM?

As early as elementary school, science and math grasped my curiosity. I always wanted to know how and why things worked. It was not surprising that my favorite television show was Star Trek, where I envisioned myself on that spaceship exploring and learning.

What advice would you give to young girls considering a career in STEM?

Take as many challenging science and math classes as you can. Consider involvement in school clubs that work in STEM related activities, such as robotics. Be curious about everything, and ask lots of questions. Always know that you can do whatever you set your mind to, and don’t let anyone make you feel that you can’t.

What advice would you give someone who wants to work at NASA?

As early as high school, inquire within multiple technical companies about performing an internship. NASA has a great program that allows you to work for them while in school, and that can help steer you into the field you want to study.

What types of challenges have you faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?

The challenge that I enjoy over and over in my career is becoming part of a new team and helping it reach goals that were thought to be unachievable. The diverse teams that I have been fortunate to be a part of bring different personalities, backgrounds, culture, work experience, capabilities and ideas. Being able to discern these qualities and use them as strengths within the team have allowed them to be incredibly successful and bring about amazing results.

What is your favorite part about working for NASA?

Knowing that my work makes an impact in our nation’s pursuit of science exploration.