NASA’s Begoña Vila Awarded 2024 Galician Excellence Award

Begoña Vila, an instrument systems engineer from KBR who worked on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, has been selected to receive the 2024 Galician Excellence Title in the Sciences and Medicine Category for her career and work on Webb.

Dr. Begoña Vila, Instrument Systems Engineer, James Webb Space Telescope
Dr. Begoña Vila, Instrument Systems Engineer, James Webb Space Telescope

This award comes from the Spanish Association of Galician Entrepreneurs of Catalonia (AEGA-CAT), a civic and social organization of entrepreneurs who seek to extend their vocation outside the country of Spain. The award honors individuals for their “profound human quality, their professional achievements, and their contribution to the development of Galicia and its respect for the culture and traditions of their land.” The award was presented to Vila July 5 at the 19th Gala Dinner of AEGA-CAT in Barcelona, Spain.

“I feel very honored to receive this title,” Vila said. “It is a wonderful surprise and special to me, working abroad, to be remembered and recognized in my home country. I grew up in Galicia, where a lot of my family lives, and it is always a pleasure to go back there.”

Vila is also an instrument systems engineer for NASA’s upcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, in addition to her role with the Webb mission. In particular, she is the systems lead for two of the instruments on Webb, one of which is the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) responsible for the pointing and stability of the observatory.

She led the final cryogenic test at Goddard for all the science instruments and supported the testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston; Northrop Grumman Space Systems in southern California; at the launch site, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana; and during the commissioning period at the Mission Control Center at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Vila continues her support for Webb operations and actively engages in Spanish and English media interviews and outreach activities for the Webb program, including Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) events.

Vila's involvement with Webb began in 2006 when she was working with COM DEV International, the Canadian company that developed and tested the FGS and Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) under CSA (Canadian Space Agency), one of NASA's international partners. Vila worked with the CSA team to ensure all the tests, analysis, and requirements verifications were complete and the instruments were ready for delivery to NASA in 2012.

She then moved to work at Goddard, as systems lead for FGS and NIRISS but also expanding her role to test director for the final cryogenic test of all the Webb’s instruments, and to deputy operations lead for the science instruments.

The Galician Excellence Titles, established by the association in 2005, recognize the personal and professional career of those people who contribute to the economic development and knowledge of Galicia outside its borders. Other categories of this award include Arts, Business, Solidarity Action, Sports, Communication & New Entrepreneurs.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

For more information about NASA’s Webb telescope visit:

Rob Gutro

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

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