Liftoff To Infinity
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Clad in white clean room coveralls, Jason Tenenbaum (AE ’07) helps to load cargo into the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the company’s launch site at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Jason Tenenbaum (AE ’07)
Mission Operations Engineer
SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation)
While at IIT, Jason Tenenbaum seemed to have hitched his wagon to the proverbial star. A former Student Government Association president, he was honored with the Richard Babcock Award for outstanding student leadership, the Clinton E. Stryker Award for significant contributions to the IIT community, and the Neal L. Hospers Award from Phi Kappa Sigma International Fraternity for Most Outstanding Undergraduate. As Tenenbaum advanced in his coursework, his desire to one day work in the space industry skyrocketed as well.
Five years after graduating from IIT Armour College of Engineering, he continues to expand his aerospace frontiers at SpaceX, a private company that designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. With a goal to one day make it possible for people to live on other planets, SpaceX was recently awarded $440 million from NASA to develop the successor to the space shuttle and extend the reach of solar system exploration.
As a youth, did you dream of becoming a rocket scientist?
I first became interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 and seeing how the NASA mission control team was able to come together, solve a really difficult problem, and bring home the Apollo 13 astronauts. I couldn’t imagine working on something more exciting and challenging than space exploration. That’s what really sparked my interest in space and becoming an aerospace engineer.
You’ve been employed in Dragon spacecraft operations at SpaceX since May 2010. Please describe a day in the life of a SpaceX mission operations engineer.
One of my favorite things about being a part of SpaceX is that every day brings something different. Over the last two years, I’ve been fortunate to be able to work hands-on with our spacecraft—from design, integration, and testing of the vehicle through launch and real-time operations. Designing and building a spacecraft to berth with the International Space Station (ISS) involves a lot of coordination with NASA on both the vehicle design and testing to ensure that we meet the safety requirements NASA has for visiting vehicles. For me, that’s meant working with NASA to show we meet all of their requirements, coordinating the joint testing we do in conjunction with NASA, planning the overall integration and testing needed to get Dragon ready for flight, and then actually performing the testing and hardware integration on the spacecraft. There are days when I’m in meetings with NASA in the morning, writing and testing ground software we use to operate the spacecraft in the afternoon, and running a test on the spacecraft or participating in a mission simulation in the evening.
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