This summer I have been interning at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, working with the group that advises and assists the Air Force on their weather satellite programs. I actually sit in the LA Air Force Base (which I didn’t even know existed before this summer), which has been really interesting, and only a little intimidating.
Along with two other interns, I have been designing a cubesat — literally a satellite, that is a cube, measuring 10 cm a side — that could supplement the larger weather satellites’ data collects. Considering that before May 31, when I started my internship, all I knew about satellites was that they orbit the Earth, and only thought about the weather when deciding whether or not to bring a jacket, you could say I’ve learned a lot. A lot. And it can all be pretty much boiled down to one sentence my supervisor, Don, reminds me every day: “Space is hard”. He has been working on weather satellites basically since the US started launching them, so he knows. Fortunately, Aerospace has some of the top engineers in the country, and when it gets hard there’s a wealth of information to pull from. There’s even a lab dedicated to making cubesats that I got to tour and see some finished cubesats that will be launched later this year (they were just sitting on a shelf waiting for their ride, it was crazy). Once our project gets out of the design phase, I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot more time down there.
Aside from sitting at my desk trying to understand orbital mechanics and GPS radio occultation (a very cool way of getting data about the atmosphere using the refraction angle of GPS signals – oh no, I’ve become a weather nerd), I also got to go on a tour of the Vandenberg Air Force Base with about 40 other interns and see their launch facilities! One of the launch pads was gearing up for a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch in September, and we got to be up close and personal with the first stage thruster that was already set up and being tested. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures on the tour but here’s a video of a ULA Delta IV-Heavy launch from one of the Space Launch Complexes (SLCs, pronounced “slicks”) I got to explore!
It has been such a fun and exciting summer, full of new opportunities I never expected, and I can’t believe it is already coming to an end! Next week is my last week at Aerospace, but I can’t wait to be back at school!