|Jeff Van Treuren is helping
America's space program forge new frontiers as a Test Director for
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, the first private
company to launch an unmanned spacecraft into orbit and have it
dock with the International Space Station.
The 2010 mechanical engineering alumnus was among the
anxious SpaceX staff members at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station on May 22 for the successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket
that carried a Dragon spacecraft into orbit. Three days later,
Dragon delivered supplies to the International Space Station, and
on May 31 completed this challenging technical feat by splashing
down safely in the Pacific Ocean.
"I continue to be awed by the enormity of what we have
done," states Van Treuren, who was a member of the team responsible
for ensuring the Falcon 9's nine engines were ready.
It took a lot of testing before the rocket made its maiden
voyage. Shortly after joining the SpaceX team, Van Treuren was
given the responsibility of Test Conductor and Vehicle Controller
for stage engine testing. He ensured the proper execution of test
operations and preparing the test stand, controlled various
components on the vehicle through software, and assisted with
maintenance of the rocket's complicated avionics electronics
The testing didn't stop there for Van Treuren.
|The rocket's first
launch attempt on May 19 was aborted a half second before liftoff.
Computer software systems caught a flaw that could have caused a
potential problem. The launch team quickly diagnosed the problem
and made the necessary repairs that same day. The rocket eventually
made its historic flight.
"I got to watch the rocket fly!" Van Treuren proudly
states. "It was a lot of hard work, but once you see the rocket
that you put so much work into lift off the pad, it was all
Now, as Test Director, he is more directly involved with
flight hardware, ensuring that engines are ready for test fires,
reviewing test data, determining if engines are ready for launch,
coordinating work with other engineers.
The retirement of America's space shuttle fleet has caused
NASA to rely on private companies, like SpaceX, to develop the next
generation of spacecraft that could ferry astronauts to and from
the space station. Van Treuren and SpaceX engineers are planning
for a manned test flight by 2015. There are other designs that will
make Falcon 9 a fully reusable rocket, and a proposed Falcon Heavy
rocket could be the most powerful rocket in the world.
"SpaceX's CEO Elon Musk likes to remind us that we are
pushing the bounds of what is possible and ushering in a new era
for commercial spaceflight," Van Treuren says.