Rocket Science

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

Papers were sprawled on my desk. Books were stacked two feet high. I was sitting in my cubicle, hunched over old lectures, trying to learn the jargon of rocket science. My eyes squinted at the tiny text as I stumbled through the abstruse vocabulary. Hydrazine, MEOP, PED delta pressures, annealed material properties…those terms were all Greek to me.It was my first week of work at Boeing. I was busy learning about propulsion and satellites systems. Every time I found something I was unsure of, I would rush over to my mentor and ask him to explain the concept. Drawing on the little whiteboard in his office, he practically exhausted the entire spectrum of propulsion. The obscure terms that once seemed so foreign to me soon became a part of my everyday vocabulary.As the days passed, I began to interview various scientists for my research project. I asked Mr. Dave Bronson, a metallurgical engineer, about tensile testing of titanium. I chatted with Dr. Jeffrey Hollender, an attitude control scientist, about the buckling and burst pressures during launch. I also talked with Dr. Ray Kushida about the theory behind fracture mechanics.During the eight weeks, I was also able to gain hands-on experience. Wearing a smock and a pair of gloves, I recorded data as I read the gauge for a propellant tank leakage test. With a pencil in one hand and a pressure regulator in the other, I rapidly scribbled down numbers for my bubble point test. Both tests were successful.In the end, I amalgamated everything into my final research report, Design Guidelines for Propellant Management Device (PMD) Tanks, which is now used to aid in the development of future propellant tank designs. I felt a sense of pride knowing the report was the result of my diligent work. My experience at Boeing gave me a thorough understanding of rocket science and propulsion mechanics. More importantly, I got a taste of what an inquisitive mind can accomplish.With the knowledge I acquired at Boeing, I look forward to furthering my research. I hope to find a more efficient method to maintain propellant tank pressures during launches. Perhaps a material stronger than 6Al-4V titanium must be used. I would also like to determine a method for increasing the lifespan of satellites in space. Maybe a better management device could be created to minimize the effect of propellant sloshing in the tank. I also hope to increase the reliability of propulsion systems. One tactic might be to improve the solution treatment of tank materials to ensure an optimal grain size. Although some of these suggestions may sound unrealistic, I certainly am up for the challenge. I look towards my future with curiosity and enthusiasm. I feel that my only limit is the sky…but even then, we always have rockets.

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