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Meet a NASA Glenn Employee: Dean Petters
February 17, 2011

Thousands of talented, dedicated and passionate people work at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. They are rocket scientists and engineers. They are researchers and physicists and chemists. They are aviation specialists, public affairs officers, administrative assistants, security officers, logistics managers and more. With countless specializations in myriad fields, the people of Glenn share one goal: working for the public in support of NASA's mission.

The diverse Glenn workforce is comprised of civil servants and on-site support contractors. Workers perform a large variety of different jobs at NASA Glenn. "My Job at NASA Glenn" is a series that introduces some of these workers. Learn about different employees and the interesting jobs they perform, and how their education prepared them to make unique and important contributions to NASA.

Dean Petters

Job Title:

Orion Service Module Test & Verification Lead
Dean Petters portraitDean Petters
Image Credit: NASA

What that means:
I am responsible for tracking the test and verification activities of the propulsion system for the Orion Service Module.

What I do:
My job is multi-faceted in that I deal routinely with hardware testing, computer analysis and modeling, system requirement verification and program management issues. I am also responsible for the in-house cold-flow testing of the Orion Service Module propulsion system. It is my responsibility to identify issues associated with the Orion propulsion verification plan's ability to prove that the requirements on the system are being met.

The coolest / most interesting part of my job is:
Working with hardware is by far the best part of my job. People can design a system on paper and analyze it with computer models, but it's not real until someone puts it together and tests it. I have also had the incredible pleasure to interface with other centers and contractors on their propulsion testing. I have seen hot-fire tests of small reaction control engines up to the large Space Shuttle Main Engine and RS-68 at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Stennis, Miss.

My favorite project that I have worked, or that I am working on, is:
I was the lead for the Dynamic Integrated Simulation Test (DIST), conducted here at NASA's Glenn Research Center. The test replicated the Orion Service Module propulsion system, and is still being used to investigate the interactions between the propulsion elements on the Service Module. As lead, I was ultimately responsible for making sure the test was successful. This meant that our team had to identify the scope of the testing, lay out the cost and schedule, identify the individual tasks, procure and build the test article and ensure the testing was completed on time. The tests were so successful that additional testing has been identified. The test rig is currently investigating the pressurization system operation and interactions with the propulsion system.

The accomplishment that I am most proud of is:
In a time of extreme budgetary hardship, the Dynamic Integrated Simulation Test (DIST) team was able to complete the originally proposed testing on schedule and within the given budget. This required tight coordination between test engineers, facilities, technicians and program management. It also emphasized the need for teamwork, as it would not have been possible if the entire team had not bought into the goals of the test project.

A Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education helped me by:
It enables me to understand how propulsion systems work. On a daily basis I use the engineering and math skills first learned in college and honed throughout the years on the job. Specifically, the DIST investigates issues directly related to fluid and pipe flow, frequency analysis, and testing and data analysis experiences that were first introduced in my undergraduate engineering and mathematics courses.

Good advice for students, including STEM students, is:
Don't specialize in a given technology too early in your career. I started out analyzing hypersonic air breathing engines using computer models and could easily have focused on those engines for my entire career. Instead, I kept a broad interest in how all types of systems work. This has led to an incredibly varied and exciting work history, having worked on advanced turbojet engines, hypersonic air breathing engines, fuel cells, the electric power system for the International Space Station and the Orion propulsion system.

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