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I Am Building SLS: Tannen VanZwieten, Flight Controls Working Group Lead
November 13, 2013

[image-36]In college, I started out on a different path than aerospace. I have bachelor's and master's degrees in ocean engineering from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. It wasn't until I was going for my doctorate degree in electrical engineering at the University of Wyoming in Laramie that I connected with NASA through the Graduate Student Researchers Program. I joined NASA in 2008, and now, I can't imagine working anywhere else.

As the Flight Controls Working Group lead, I am working with a fantastic team on developing algorithms for the flight control system on NASA's Space Launch System (SLS), our new rocket that will enable missions even farther into our solar system to places like Mars.

We are testing those algorithms on an F-18 fighter jet at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center. A stumbling block for a lot of people is, "You've got a rocket algorithm, but you want to test it on an airplane?" It's not immediately clear how the aircraft could match important dynamic features of SLS, but it does. We're flying a similar trajectory on the airplane as we have with the rocket, and the aircraft rotational dynamics are “slowed down” to match the maneuvering characteristics of a heavy-lift launch vehicle.

Partnering with Dryden and the NASA Engineering and Safety Center on this project has been a phenomenal experience. It's exciting to push the envelope of what's used for human spaceflight by developing and incorporating, what we believe, is a better, safer algorithm.

Engineering is a great field where we can provide valuable contributions in our daily job. I hope young people will take advantage of the opportunity they have now to learn so they can provide themselves with a solid foundation that they will be able to build upon later. I encourage students to take an internship, so that they can get to know companies they might want to work for, and the companies can get to know them.

Tannen VanZwieten, Flight Controls Working Group Lead
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Page Last Updated: November 22nd, 2013
Page Editor: Brooke Boen