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Marjorie Rhodes Townsend Papers,

 Collection
Identifier: Ms-1986-003

Scope and Contents

Townsend's papers focus on her professional career in aerospace engineering at National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and also include some of her later consulting work. The bulk includes correspondence with scientists, notes from staff meetings, documentation about the NASA projects she worked on, and publications that Townsend wrote or that relate to her work. There are also drafts of speeches (mostly to engineering, student, and women's professional groups) and newspaper and magazine articles about Townsend's professional accomplishments.

Much of the material is identified as work from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and GSFC (Goddard Space Flight Center.) Acronyms for some of the projects she worked on include IRLS (Interrogation, Recording and Location System, the first space data collection system), SAS (the acronym for all three Small Astronomy Satellites, known as A,B, and C, and the first of which was called Uhuru), TIROS (Television InfraRed Observation Satellites), and APT (Automatic Picture Transmission).

Dates

  • 1961 - 1994

Creator

Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The copyright status of this collection is unknown. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials. Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: http://bit.ly/scuareproduction. Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: http://bit.ly/scuapublication. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives (specref@vt.edu or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.

Biographical Note

Marjorie Rhodes Townsend, born in 1930, entered The George Washington University engineering program at the age of 15. She took classes part time and worked full time after her marriage to doctor Charles Townsend in 1948, and was the first women to earn an engineering degree at GWU, receiving her Bachelor of Electrical Engineering in 1951.

Her career began with eight years at the Naval Research Laboratory where she worked on sonar research. In 1959 she moved to National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Space Flight Center, where she worked until 1980. Noted for her project management skills, Townsend oversaw three satellite launches from foreign locations. She was project manager for all three Small Astronomy Satellites (1966-75) and for the Applications Explorer Missions (1975-76). She was granted a patent for a digital telemetry system that was aboard the NIMBUS satellite. Her last five years at NASA included responsibility for all advanced mission planning for future scientific and applications satellites as well as NOAA's meteorological satellites. After her retirement, Townsend worked for private aerospace companies and provided consulting services to NASA and other aerospace entities.

Townsend was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1971 and the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 1980. She was also named Knight of the Italian Republic Order in 1972. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and served as a chair of the Washington chapter. She also served as chairman of the National Capital Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and is a past president of the Washington Academy of Sciences.

Extent

3.3 Cubic Feet (4 boxes; 1 oversize folder)

Abstract

Marjorie Rhodes Townsend was the first women to earn an engineering degree at The George Washington University, receiving her Bachelor of Electrical Engineering in 1951. After eight years at the Naval Research Laboratory, she moved to National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Space Flight Center in 1959, where she worked until 1980. Townsend was project manager for three Small Astronomy Satellites (SAS, 1966-75) and for Applications Explorer Missions (1975-76), and later had responsibility for all advanced mission planning for future scientific and applications satellites as well as NOAA's meteorological satellites. Townsend's papers focus on her professional career in aerospace engineering at NASA and include some of her later consulting work, mainly consisting of correspondence, meeting notes, project documents, and publications that Townsend wrote or that relate to her work. There are also materials about her numerous speaking engagements and articles about Townsend's professional accomplishments.

Arrangement

The Marjorie Rhodes Townsend Papers are arranged in two series, and mostly by chronological order within the series, except where related project materials were kept together. There are areas of overlap between these two series.

Series I contains three subseries of records documenting Townsend's accomplishments, her presentations given to professional, civic, and student groups, and script drafts for a film about space in which she was involved. Subseries A contains her curriculum vitae and photos and clippings about her accomplishments. Subseries B contains correspondence and notes or entire texts of presentations that she presented at engineering conferences, science lectures, student classes, and meetings of womens' professional groups. Subseries C includes four drafts of the script for the movie "Beyond Our Sun," an educational film made for NASA by John Larry Washburn.

Series II encompasses materials from her work at NASA and some consulting work thereafter. It is arranged in chronological order, with a few exceptions to keep related project materials together.

Source of Acquisition

The Marjorie Rhodes Townsend Papers were donated to the Archives of American Aerospace Exploration at the Special Collections by their creator in 1986 and 2005.

Related Archival Material

Additional materials about space flight and NASA are part of Virginia Tech's Archives of American Aerospace Exploration.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Marjorie Rhodes Townsend Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/public-domain/cc0/).

Processing Information

The processing, arrangement and description of the Marjorie Rhodes Townsend Papers began in December 2005 and was completed in March 2006.

Title
A Guide to the Marjorie Rhodes Townsend Papers, 1961-1994
Status
Completed
Author
Amy Vilelle
Date
2006 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English

Revision Statements

  • 2020-08-14: Finding aid notes updated to new department standards. juliags

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Contact:
Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US
540-231-6308