My experience in Astronautical Engineering can be broken down into different areas of my life: 1)my childhood and upbringing 2) my college experiences 3) my work in the industry and 4) my interests, passions, and plan for the future
1) I grew up with 4 parents, 3 of which were engineers. I remember always hearing about some new invention my dad had thought up or some funding he was applying for to pursue a crazy idea. My personal favorite was a machine to mine an asteroid for valuable metals. My dad first introduced me to the exciting and advanced technology in the aerospace field, and although he works in many other fields as well, that area of engineering stuck with me. I loved to argue with him about the best way to harvest space solar power, or look over his MATLAB code until it made sense to me. I have been an engineer for most of my life, and even though I didn’t know very much about the industry or the technology, I got my heart set on working of space technology.
2) I think I’ve mentioned before how few people choose to major in Astronautical Engineering. My Astronautics specific classes have between 10-15 students. It was a tough decision, but all of us choose astronautical over mechanical or aerospace engineering, knowing that it would limit our options in industry, because we are a driven and intelligent group. We all know what we want, and we are prepared to do whatever it takes to get it. I really enjoy working with these type of people. My classes are taught be professors with real world experience working on the most amazing technological projects of the century. For example, my professor in my favorite class last semester worked at JPL and designed the plantary entry system of the Mars Science Laboratory.
3) I’ve worked for 9 months at the Boeing Satellite Development Center. I’ve worked with Electrical Engineers that design circuitry for the satellite, Civil Engineers that design the structure of the satellite and the loading tests and acceptable deformations, Mechanical Engineers that design and test the thermal profile of the entire spacecraft and plan testing to verify that no part of the spacecraft overheats or overcools during its life in space. An Astronautical Engineer learns all of these things. We start from the top and work our way down, solving problems like: what units need to go on the spacecraft to accomplish it’s mission, and how much room for error we have for each requirement.
4) Finally, Astronautical Engineering is a very specific vocation for people who want to make a difference in technology that will travel beyond Earth. I find all the fields of engineering very interesting, but the challenge of designing something that has to survive in space and perform some function that’s never been done before appeals to me. I want to tackle that challenge and, even when I was working on a spacecraft that’s been done several times before, like GPS, I still have to apply all of my skill and knowledge because each product has unique problems and requirements, and if you’re sending something to space, you’ll never get a second chance to fix it.
I hope this made some kind of sense. In general, Astronautical Engineering aligns with my passion for space technology and my desire to be engaged and challenged every day in my job. I am lucky, because I’ve found something that I love, and the people that share this field of engineering with me are extremely interesting, intelligent, and committed to making an impact.