[image-36]As an aerospace engineer, I am on a team that is developing algorithms for the flight control system on the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA's new heavy-lift launch vehicle that will allow future explorers to travel farther into our solar system than ever before. That system is the "brain" of the vehicle, designed to steer it along the path to its destination in orbit. Our team has spent months working with engineers at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center to turn their F-18 fighter jet into a working test bed for those algorithms.
We have 18 test cases for the F-18 test series, each simulating some off-nominal conditions, like higher thrust than anticipated or the presence of wind gusts, to see if the flight control algorithm responds as we designed it to do. The tests might reveal something we hadn't thought about in our algorithm, which we can go back and modify as necessary.
I've always had in interest in NASA, and working on a fast-paced project like this that will actually fly and that will benefit SLS in the future is really cool. I'm really lucky to be a part of it and to work with some of the most talented engineers in the NASA community.
My advice to students is to find an activity outside of your classes that allows you to apply what you’re learning to real things -- be it research, a club or a hobby. The practical knowledge will enable you to learn more effectively in lectures, will help you decide whether you’re going into the right field and will prepare you for the work you’ll be doing after you graduate.