Feature

Turbo Machinery Engineer Enjoys the "Hot Seat"
12.08.09
 
Interest in high-performance engines is usually associated with men. But for Jessica Tandy, a turbo machinery engineer with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne since 2005, helping to process the space shuttle main engines occupies most of her workday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"It's very exciting to work on space shuttle main engines," Tandy said. "They are very complex and the learning opportunities are endless."

After Endeavour's STS-127 mission ended in July, Tandy served as the move director-in-training during the main engine removal process in Orbiter Processing Facility-2. She sat in the hot seat on the Hyster forklift and focused on operating the rail table, which is used to install or remove engines, while communicating with several technicians who were in the aft compartment of the orbiter. Jessica Tandy, Rocketdyne turbo machinery engineer

Image above: Jessica Tandy, a turbo machinery engineer with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, maneuvers a Hyster forklift into a main engine on space shuttle Endeavour. Photo credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller
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A critical element of engine removal is aligning the "duck bills" inside the main combustion chamber after which the weight of the engine is transferred from the orbiter to the engine installer. Tandy said engine removal takes about three hours and engine installation takes about four hours per engine, depending on circumstances.

The engines were then transported to the Space Shuttle Main Engine Processing Facility where they were checked for leaks. They underwent two-hour and then eight-hour drying purges to remove moisture and were lifted into vertical stands.

Technicians removed inspection port hardware so the blades and bearings on the high pressure pumps could be inspected. Tandy said static inspections also were conducted to inspect for anomalies, such as cracks, contamination and erosion.

"Every component of the engine is inspected to some degree and many requirements must be satisfied prior to engine installation," Tandy said.

After the flight readiness tests were completed, the mechanical, electrical, avionics, turbo pumps and combustion engine groups performed final walk downs and started the process over with engine installation for the next mission.

"Engine installation is one of my favorite things to do," Tandy said. "Seeing the engines interface with the orbiter after weeks of preparation is very rewarding."

Though she is not the first woman in the engine shop, Tandy is the only woman currently training to be an engine move director. In addition to her current position, Tandy also is a task team leader on turbo pump removal and installation. Tandy spent two weeks at the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., for familiarization training and also traveled to NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to view development hardware.

Tandy received a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., in 2004, and an MBA from the University of Phoenix in Florida this year.

In her spare time, Tandy likes to travel and skydive, and is planning to get her private pilot's license. She has a Jack Russell terrier named Tug.

 
 
Linda Herridge
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center