Ground System Operation Team Lead Shin-Tsuen Fang

Shin-Tsuen Fang

Ground System Team Lead

When Shin-Tsuen “S-T” Fang attended college in Taiwan, he belonged to a mountain hiking club. Members trekked on the Pacific Rim mountains, the highest of which reaches 12,000 feet. “When we went up the mountain on a clear night, I liked to see the stars,” he recalled. “It was really beautiful. Everything seemed right in front of you.”

Today he gets to bring the rest of the world closer to the stars as part of the Hubble Space Telescope team. “Hubble helps people to understand the universe, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that,” he said.

Born in Taipei, Taiwan, S-T earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at National Taiwan University. He decided to go abroad to obtain his advanced degree and was awarded a merit scholarship from the University of Rhode Island, where he obtained his master’s degree in chemical engineering.

After graduation, he took a job writing computer programs that simulated nuclear power plants. In the wake of the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in 1979, which resulted in the release of some radioactive gas and iodine into the environment, every nuclear power plant in the United States was required to have a simulator to train people to avoid the same mistakes. “We had to go through all the nuclear power plant design documents and schematic diagrams, so that when we were doing the modeling, we could have exactly the same design,” he said. “The simulation had to be as close as possible to the real thing. We wanted to make sure it had the same touch and feel as the real nuclear power plant.” He found he greatly enjoyed computer engineering, and during that time, he earned a master’s degree in computer science from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

After eight years working on nuclear plant simulations, S-T began a new job at Maryland’s Goddard Space Flight Center on Spacelab, a reusable laboratory flown aboard the space shuttle. There he helped guarantee the integrity of the Spacelab data, ensuring that it was complete and error-free before sending it on to the scientists who used it. He supported Spacelab for six years and the Data Distribution Facility, which provides science data to multiple NASA missions (including Hubble), for two years before joining the Hubble team in 1997.

He is now responsible for all aspects of Operation Control Center support related to its ground system. Hubble’s ground system is full of different types of computers and servers, and S-T and his team make sure that everything — hardware and software — is up to date and secure from hackers. In addition, they work with the databases where information is stored to make sure that they’re organized and that people can access data quickly and efficiently.

S-T is particularly proud to have contributed to the servicing missions to repair and upgrade Hubble. “After the mission the telescope has a new life to begin with,” he said. “I’m very proud to be a part of the team. People here are all very dedicated. If there are any problems, they focus on working on the problem. It's always ‘The Hubble comes first.’”

While S-T no longer hikes mountains, he still enjoys hiking the C&O Canal Trail, which runs through Maryland, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia. He can often be found biking, and he has been practicing tai chi for more than 10 years.

S-T lives in Potomac, Maryland, with his wife. They have a son and a daughter.

Shin-Tsuen Fang
Ground System Team Lead Shin-Tsuen Fang
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Bill Hrybyk