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DeCesaris joins NASA from Missile Defense Agency

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Paula Khoe DeCesaris '96

Paula Khoe DeCesaris has been appointed deputy director of the Spacecraft and Vehicle Systems Department in the Engineering Directorate at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama (a.k.a. Rocket City). The 1996 Furman University physics major (pre-engineering) comes to MSFC from the Missile Defense Agency, where was responsible for all technical aspects of planning, designing, and execution of the Ballistic Missile Defense System tests.

The Greer, South Carolina, native began her federal service career in 1997 as an aerospace engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia. In 2001, she accepted a rotational assignment to the Test and Evaluation Directorate of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization as the deputy program manager for the organization’s flight test airborne sensors assets.

As the organization began limited defensive operations in 2005, DeCesaris became the Models and Simulations Accreditation agent and Independent Verification and Validation agent for the Ground Based Missile Defense program, and was later the Models and Simulations lead for the Missile Defense Agency Targets and Countermeasures program.

DeCesaris is an active participant in several professional forums, including the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, where she has authored and presented numerous papers. She has published various technical articles, papers and reports in many additional national and international defense forums and has received multiple awards, including the Award for Excellence from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award.

In addition to her bachelor’s in physics from Furman, she holds a master’s in aerospace engineering from Auburn University and is a senior executive fellow with Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Read more about her career in The Redstone Rocket.

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