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From Ram Accelerator to SpaceX Engineer

Isaac Statnekov’s passion for aerospace began early. His grandfather, who worked on the Saturn Rocket at McDonnell Douglas Corp., encouraged Isaac to pursue engineering. Isaac studied aerospace books as a child, and in high school, wrote a 40 page paper on the history of aeronautics in the twentieth century. Isaac began a research project in his first quarter in A&A, working with Professor Carl Knowlen on the Ram Accelerator, and later on fabrication of a prototype shock wave reactor, work that continued through his senior year.

After graduating Summa Cum Laude from our department in 2010, Isaac earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University. While at Purdue, he held a Co-op position at SpaceX when it was a small startup company. After earning his MSAE, Isaac joined SpaceX full-time. "Working with Dr. Knowlen on the Ram Accelerator got me very interested in economical access to space, which played a huge role in my decision to join SpaceX," says Isaac.

At SpaceX, Isaac has worked on a variety of exciting projects, including structural analysis for the design of the new C103 niobium nozzle extension used on the second stage MVacD engine on the Falcon 9, which has flown successfully to the International Space Station (ISS).

More recently, Isaac designed the regenerative cooling channels and oversaw the structural, thermal, and fluids analysis in the development of a 3D printed rocket engine (Draco and SuperDraco thrusters) which will be used on the Dragon capsule as an escape engine for astronauts being ferried to the International Space Station. ‘The analysis of liquid propellant rocket engines requires a diverse range of skills, particularly when working for a smaller company such as SpaceX,” Isaac explains, “The UWAA's rigorous academic program and interesting research opportunities provided a strong foundation that has been incredibly valuable to my work.”