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I Am Building SLS: Jeb Orr, Flight Controls Engineer, Draper Laboratory
November 13, 2013

[image-36]I've been fascinated with space exploration for as long as I can remember, and this focused my interests in college. I earned a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, a master's in electrical engineering and a doctorate in electrical engineering with an emphasis in dynamics and controls -- all from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

As a contractor engineer supporting NASA, I'm on a team that is developing algorithms for the flight control system of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS). We are testing those algorithms on an F-18 fighter jet at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. We’re able to maneuver this jet in such a way that our software doesn't know that it's flying an airplane. It thinks it's flying SLS -- the biggest, most-capable launch vehicle ever designed.

Our team has an exceptional opportunity as early-to-mid-career engineers on this project. We’re doing something that is really unprecedented in human spaceflight from the standpoint of algorithm design, development and flight certification. We're expanding the envelope of the capabilities of SLS a little bit outside what we'd normally be able to achieve through a traditional analysis process. With an advanced algorithm, we can be more responsive to anomalies in flight, like unpredictable winds, to ensure the vehicle stays on its trajectory.

My advice to students is to find something that inspires you, whatever it is, and invest in it. Too often, we assume that in order to reach the stars, we only need engineers, technicians, mathematicians and scientists. We also need artists, poets and visionaries. Find a way to become one -- or many -- of these things.

Jeb Orr, Flight Controls Engineer, Draper Laboratory
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Page Last Updated: November 14th, 2013
Page Editor: Brooke Boen