fbpx Tracy D. Drain, BSME 1998 | University of Kentucky College of Engineering

Tracy D. Drain, BSME 1998
Inducted in 2023

Tracy D. Drain, BSME 1998

Tracy Drain is a flight systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. She is currently the lead flight systems engineer for the Europa Clipper mission, which is slated to launch in 2024 and will study Jupiter’s icy moon of the same name.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1998, Drain attended the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she received a master’s degree in the same field. She began working at JPL in 2000 and since then has been involved with a variety of deep space missions.

Drain joined the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) development team in May of 2001. In the four years prior to MRO’s launch, she was involved in tasks such as the development of project system requirements, mission system fault trees and running simulations of faulted mission scenarios. After the August 2005 launch, Drain participated in both nominal and off-nominal activities in operations and eventually became the lead systems engineer on the flight engineering team.

Drain left MRO in early 2007 to join the Kepler project, a mission of hunting for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars in our Milky Way galaxy that was preparing for a March 2009 launch. Following Kepler’s two-month post-launch checkout period, Drain joined the Juno project on the project system and flight system engineering teams to focus on fault protection oversight. Juno successfully entered orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. For part of the five-year cruise to Jupiter, Drain split time between the Juno project and serving as technical group supervisor for the flight system engineering group. She returned full-time to Juno as the deputy chief engineer, in preparation for Juno’s Jupiter Orbit Insertion and Science Phase.

In the spring of 2018, Drain joined the Psyche project as the deputy project system engineer. Psyche will launch in 2023 and commence a journey to study the solar system’s largest metal asteroid. In the summer of 2020, Drain left Psyche to accept the role of lead flight systems engineer on the Europa Clipper mission.

Drain has received the JPL Bruce Murray Award for exceptional support for the education of minority and female STEM students through community programs, distance learning and public events. She has also been honored with NASA Exceptional Achievement Medals for her work on the Kepler mission and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission. Among her service activities, Drain is a committee member and exchange consultant for the National Academy of Sciences and a board member of the Arizona State University Interplanetary Initiative. She is passionate about space exploration and loves sharing the wonders of scientific discoveries with people of all ages.

Drain lives in Pasadena, California with her husband, Theodore Drain.