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Julie Townsend


4800 Oak Grove Drive
M/S 264-423

Pasadena, CA 91109

Member of:

3470 - Section Management

Acting Member of:

3471 - Section Staff

Julie A. Townsend

Assistant Section Manager

Group Supervisor (Acting)


Julie is the Group Supervisor for the Operable Robotics group (347R). Julie's background is in robotics systems engineering, specializing in analyzing and maximizing robotics performance under nominal and anomalous operating conditions. Julie has extensive experience designing, implementing, and executing operations of robotic manipulation and wheeled and limb mobility systems in a variety of environments, including indoor and outdoor testbeds, field demonstration sites, and the surface of Mars. Notable projects include the Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance Mars Rovers, the ATHLETE Lunar utility vehicle prototype, and various wheeled and limbed research systems.


M.S. (2000) Aeronautics and Astronautics, Stanford University
S.B. (1998) Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Professional Experience

Mars 2020 Rover, Perseverance, 2016-Present
Sampling and Caching Ops Lead, SCS Robotics CogE
Mars Science Laboratory, 2008 and 2014 - Present
Engineering Operations Team Chief and Deputy, Robotic Arm Systems Engineer
Mars Sample Return R&D, 2012 – 2015
Operability Expert, Systems Engineer
Mars Exploration Rovers, 2001 – 2014
Rover Planner Team Lead, Tactical Uplink Lead, Avionics Systems Engineer
ATHLETE Prototype Lunar Rover, 2005 – 2012
System Test Lead, Mobility and Manipulation Software Developer
360-Degree Camera Head for Unmanned Sea Surface Vehicle, 2009
Mechanical design and fabrication
Robotics R&D, 2004 – 2005
Systems Engineer and Software Developer

Technical Experience:
• Flight System development, V&V, and launch, cruise, and surface operations
• Research robotics development, assembly, test, and field demonstration
• Robotic arm workspace, performance, and operability analyses
• Mobility and manipulation algorithm development, test, debug, and parameter tuning
• Research hardware design, fabrication, assembly, and delivery - watertight
• Remote and realtime operation of robotic systems
• Fault Protection algorithm development and V&V
• Systems Engineering: trade studies, complexity management, interface management, performance assessment, problem resolution, infrastructure management, risk and criticality assessment


JPL Voyager Award, 2020, Mars 2020
JPL Voyager Award, 2016, MSL
JPL Mariner Award, 2007, MER
JPL Level C Leadership Award, 2004, MER
JPL Level C Outstanding Achievement Award, 2002, MER

NASA Honors: Group Achievement Awards
MER Avionics Team
MER Project Operations Team
MER First Extended Mission Team MER Second Extended Mission Team
ATHLETE Development Team
MER 3rd and 4th Extended Mission Team
MER R9.3 Flight Software Team
Intelligent Autonomy for Unmanned Vehicles Team
MSL Surface Sampling and Science Systems Team
MER Science and Operations Team
MSL Extended Mission-1 Science and Operations Team


  1. B.H. Wilcox, T. Litwin, J. Biesiadecki, J. Matthews, M. Heverly, J. Morrison, J. Townsend, N. Ahmad, A. Sirota, B. Cooper, "ATHLETE: A Cargo Handling and Manipulation Robot for the Moon," Journal of Field Robotics, vol 24, issue 5, May 2007, 421-434, 15 July 2016.
  1. J. Townsend, et. al., "Mars Exploration Rovers 2004-2013: Evolving Operational Tactics Driven by Aging Robotic Systems.," AIAA SpaceOps 2014 Conference, 01 January 2014.
  1. E. Kulczycki, C. Galey, B. Kennedy, C. Budney, D. Bame, R. Van Schilfgaarde, N. Aisen, J. Townsend, P. Younse, and J. Piacentine, "The development of a Martian atmospheric Sample collection canister.," Aerospace Conference, 2013 IEEE, 1-10, 01 January 2013.
  1. J. Townsend, J. Biesiadecki, "Sliding Gait Algorithm For The All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer (ATHLETE).," 2012 ASME Dynamic Systems and Control Conference: 11th Motion & Vibration Conference, 01 January 2012.
  2. J. Townsend and D. Mittman, "Driving ATHLETE: An Analysis of Operational Efficiency.," AIAA Space 2012 Conference, 01 January 2012.
  1. J. Townsend, "ATHLETE Mobility Performance in Long-Range Traverse.," AIAA Space 2011 Conference, 01 January 2011.
  1. A.W. Stroupe, T. Huntsberger, B. Kennedy, H. Aghazarian, E.T Baumgartner, A. Ganino, M. Garrett, A. Okon, M. Robinson, J.A. Townsend, "Heterogeneous Robotic Systems for Assembly and Servicing," ISAIRAS (ESA SP-603), September 2005, 06 October 2010.
  2. M.A. Diftler, R.O. Ambrose, W.J. Bluethmann, F.J. Delgado, E. Herrera, J.J. Kosmo, B.A. Janoiko, B.H. Wilcox, J.A. Townsend, J.B. Matthews, T.W. Fong, M.G. Bualat, S.Y. Lee, J.T. Dorsey, W.R. Doggett, "Crew/robot coordinated planetary EVA operations at a lunar base analog site," Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, vol. 38, March 2007, 06 October 2010.
  3. J. Townsend, J. Biesiadecki, C. Collins, "ATHLETE Mobility Performance with Active Terrain Compliance," IEEE Aerospace Conference, Big Sky, Monatana, March 2010, #1530, 06 October 2010.
  4. R. E. Arvidson, J. F. Bell III, P. Bellutta, N. A. Cabrol, J. G. Catalano, J. Cohen, L. S. Crumpler, D. J. Des Marais, T. A. Estlin, W. H. Farrand, R. Gellert, J. A. Grant, R. N. Greenberger, E. A. Guinness, K. E. Herkenhoff, J. A. Herman, K. D. Iagnemma, J. R. Johnson, G. Klingelhöfer, R. Li, K. A. Lichtenberg, S. A. Maxwell, D. W. Ming, R. V. Morris, M. S. Rice, S. W. Ruff, A. Shaw, K. L. Siebach, P. A. de Souza, A. W. Stroupe, S. W. Squyres, R. J. Sullivan, K. P. Talley, J. A. Townsend, A. Wang, J. R. Wright, and A. S. Yen, "Spirit Mars Rover Mission: Overview and selected results from the northern Home Plate Winter Haven to the side of Scamander crater," JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 115, E00F03, doi:10.1029/2010JE003633, 2010, 30 September 2010.
  5. J. Townsend, J. Biesiadecki, and C. Collins, "ATHLETE Mobility Performance with Active Terrain Compliance.," Aerospace Conference, 2010 IEEE, 01 January 2010.
  1. K. Nickels, B. Kennedy, H. Aghazarian, C. Collins, M. Garrett, A. Okon, J. Townsend, "Vision-Guided Self-Alignment and Manipulation in a Walking Robot," Proceedings, 2006 IEEE International Conference on System of Systems Engineering, 24 April 2006.
  2. K. Nickels, B. Kennedy, H. Aghazarian, C. Collins, M. Garrett, A. Okon, and J. Townsend, "Vision-guided self-alignment and manipulation in a walking robot.," System of Systems Engineering, 2006 IEEE/SMC International Conference on, 01 January 2006.