RocketStars: ULA's geologist ensures launch site compliance

September 25, 2021

Meet Katharine Jacobs, the resident geologist at United Launch Alliance (ULA) and an environmental engineer at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California where teams are readying the Landsat 9 spacecraft for launch atop the Atlas V rocket on Monday, Sept. 27.

"My current projects involve permitting for Space Launch Complex (SLC)-3 and -6 to comply with federal, state and local regulations. I'm also working on upcoming Vulcan Centaur environmental responsibilities that include the construction to take place at SLC-3," Jacobs said.

She began her career in environmental consulting as an on-site geologist in 2013, along the way earning her Professional Geologist license as well as other professional certifications in the environmental field. In January 2020, she joined ULA at Vandenberg.

Born in New York in an Army family, Jacobs moved around as a child and calls Missouri her home. She earned two degrees at Northwest Missouri State University and a master's in geology from the University of North Dakota.

Besides environmental duties, Jacobs also performs safety roles as needed and serves as a ULA ambassador for outreach to the local community.

"I have been pad safety for mission critical work during Landsat 9 as well as escorting visitors and getting people oriented with pad safety rules. At launch, I assist with initial pad clear prior to the countdown and will be on the re-entry team once we have launched," Jacobs said.

The Atlas V rocket will deliver Landsat 9 into a near-polar, sun-synchronous orbit around Earth, enabling the partnership between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey to continue the Landsat program's vital role of repeat global observations for monitoring, understanding and managing Earth's natural resources. The addition of Landsat 9 will extend the program's record of land imaging beyond a half-century.

ULA and our heritage Atlas and Delta rockets have launched every successful Landsat mission. The first occurred on July 23, 1972, beginning an uninterrupted, unparalleled data record that continues to this day in monitoring the Earth's ever changing environment.