Director of the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service: Who Is Stephen Volz?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Stephen Volz became the Commerce Department’s assistant administrator in charge of the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) on November 2, 2014, replacing Mary Kicza. NECSIS operates the nation’s weather and environmental satellites.


Volz is from Washington, D.C., where he attended high school at St. Anshelm’s Abbey School, graduating in 1976. He went on to the University of Virginia and earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1980. Volz followed that by going to the University of Illinois, where he earned a master’s degree in physics in 1981 and a Ph.D. in 1986. His concentration was experimental condensed matter physics.


Volz went to work for the Goddard Flight Center in Maryland, part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Over the next 11 yers, he worked in several jobs there, including as instrument manager, an I&T manager, a systems engineer, and a cryogenic systems engineer on missions and instruments including the Cosmic Background Explorer, designed to measure the radiation left over from the Big Bang.


In 1997, Volz moved into the private sector as a project manager at Ball Aerospace & Technologies. He worked on the design and development cryostat system for the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, which was renamed the Spitzer Space Telescope after launch, among other projects. The cryostat kept the instruments on the telescope cold.


Volz returned to NASA in 2002 as a program executive for earth science missions including Earth Observing 3-GIFTS, a system to improve weather forecasting; CloudSat, which uses radar to study clouds and precipitation from space; CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation), a sister satellite to CloudSat that uses reflected light in a principle similar to radar to detect aerosol particles and distinguish between aerosol and cloud particles; and ICESat ((Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite), which measures ice sheet mass balance, cloud and aerosol heights, as well as land topography and vegetation characteristics. Volz also led the senior review for the earth science operating missions.


In November 2007, Volz took over as NASA’s associate director for flight programs in its earth science division. He managed all of NASA’s earth science programs, including all the satellites devoted to that field. He also worked on collaborating with other nations’ space agencies on earth science missions and to optimize the use of the data collected on those missions.


Volz and his wife, Beth, have two daughters.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Official Biography


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