University of Alabama: Huntsville Student Launch 2014 First Full Scale Flight
I went back to school a couple years ago, and I'm finally about to finish my degree. I have one class in the summer. One of the last classes engineers take at UAH is Senior Design. It's two semesters long, and the difficulty of Senior Design classes varies. Ours spiraled completely out of control.
The class I signed up for was Rocket Design (I'm a Mechanical; the class was split about 50/50 with Aeros). Rocket Design usually flies a NASA competition every year (Student Launch Initiative), but since NASA's budget was a mess, it didn't look like there was going to be an event this year, so we sought out another project to design an aerodynamic test bed for Nanolaunch, another NASA project. We were going to build a rocket with the same outer profile as the full scale Nanolaunch rocket, and take test data off of it to find a bunch of aerodynamic data for them. We designed a rocket almost completely before the end of the Fall semester when, 2 weeks before school let out, NASA announced that they had found money, and there would be a competition after all. Not only that, but they found money by passing the costs for the competition on to corporate sponsors who got to make all sorts of demands about how the rockets would be built.
What this meant to us was that we had gone from a big, but gentle motor and ~15Gs of acceleration, one payload, and unlimited flight ceiling, to a monster motor, 44Gs, 4 payloads, and completely redesigning our rocket in ~2/3 the time we would have had to design and build everything on a normal year.
Today we flew it.
^^^^Enginerd for scale.
It's 10 feet long and 4.5" in diameter. We flew it today on the small motor (~330lbs thrust; the big motor makes 1366lbs thrust). After lots of teething issues with our parachute deployment system we've had two successful flights in a row now (one on a prototype rocket, and one in the full scale). We've flown two subscale/ prototype rockets nearly a dozen times total now. We've redesigned the full scale rocket 15 times or more due to supplier problems and NASA shenanigans. We've written 4 150-250 page reports. Half the team sucked, and the other half of the team had to take up their slack. As Hardware Team Lead, I've put in hundreds of hours on this project. Three weeks ago I gave up on finishing a rocket at all due to serious supplier problems, much less finishing it in time to make it to competition.
I remember pounding doors in Huntsville for a starting engineering position back in late 1991. Same story then. Cyclical.
My boss graduated from UAH with a BSEE in 91 or 92, and was in the same boat. she's been less than encouraging. Luckily I have a job for now, but it won't last forever, and I'd shoot myself if it did... Hopefully the fact that I'm not a 22 year old fresh-out will help me stand out from the crowd.
That's what I was thinking. I've been looking around a little for civilian engineer jobs and most of my friends said that the job market is good for the most part. Unless you're tied to Huntsville for some reason there's no reason to stay there.