Rocket University is designed to develop, refine and maintain flight engineering skills
As NASA plans for future spaceflight programs to low-Earth orbit and beyond, teams of engineers at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are gaining flight systems experience in designing and launching vehicle systems on a small scale.
As part of Rocket University, the engineers are given an opportunity to work a fast-track project to develop skills in flight systems through the life cycle of a program.
Four teams of five to eight members from Kennedy are designing rockets complete with avionics, separation and recovery systems. Launch operations require coordination with federal agencies, just as they would with rockets launched in support of a NASA mission.
“Rocket University began in the summer of 2010,” said Kevin Vega, assistant chief engineer for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). “As the Space Shuttle Program was coming to an end, we realized many of our engineers were working systems designed long ago. ‘Rocket U’ was developed to help civil service and some contractor engineers expand their skill set, flight systems engineering experience and learn to manage design programs.”
Rocket University is designed to develop, refine and maintain flight engineering skills. The training program’s goals include developing and testing new technologies and potential ground-breaking systems through projects involving small scale vehicles. The effort also provides a fresh perspective to engineers who then take this hands-on expertise back into large-scale NASA programs, providing for more experienced, multi-disciplined systems engineers.
NASA is currently working in partnership with the nation’s aerospace industry in the Commercial Crew Program to develop space transportation systems to launch astronauts safely to the International Space Station. Also in the design stages are the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle and the Space Launch System advanced, heavy-lift rocket to provide the capability for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.
Rocket University involves research and development in four platforms: rockets, unmanned aerial systems, weather balloons and the Neo liquid engine test bed.
“All these platforms have different training classes,” said Vega, who also is the Rocket University rocketry lead. “The students are assigned projects based on the platform they are working. In these cases, it’s done on a small scale with the full-scale project outline.”
The scaled-down projects allow the efforts to be completed over a period of months rather than years, as a full-scale system would require.