The coolest part of his job, says Daniel Delago (’20 BS, Computer Science), is also the scariest.
As a flight software engineer for SpaceX, he has a literal front-row seat for every launch of the Falcon 9. Along with his fellow engineers, he works to ensure the rocket’s software is healthy prior to liftoff. If anything goes wrong, it’s on the flight software team to figure it out.
“There are so many ways for a launch to go wrong, and we try to cover every possible scenario and come up with ways to react to all of them,” Delago said. “It’s not the unknowns that we’re afraid of. It’s the unknown unknowns—scenarios that we didn’t even think were possible and no one would have thought of.”
The Falcon 9, a launch vehicle that has the capability of sending people and cargo to space, is the first reusable rocket that can land back on Earth. In addition to monitoring each launch for signs of problems and troubleshooting in real time, the flight software team is responsible for anything related to the actual flight software of the vehicle.
It’s a huge responsibility, but Delago says it’s one that his education at UTA more than prepared him for. His first foray into aerospace and robotics happened on campus, when he joined the UTA Rover Society, which led to his first internship at NASA.
“I use my degree every single day at work,” he said. “Some examples include coding, of course, but also understanding where software can help improve a process, or conversely, where software should be removed.”
Delago said the lessons he learned at UTA are enabling humanity to continue its exploration of the universe.
“Working in the space sector, we are standing on the shoulder of giants. Space exploration, in my mind, has always been the pinnacle of what humans are capable of,” he said. “What we’re doing is extremely difficult, but it’s amazing what can happen when you have so many brilliant people all striving toward the same goal.”
– Written by Amber Scott, Office of Marketing, Messaging and Engagement