Summer of Rockets

by Nick Terhall

Terhall angel's landing

Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park

With the onset of an Iowa winter, memories of this summer in Utah seem like a distant past on a foreign planet. Only a few short months ago, I was working as an intern for ATK Aerospace in Promontory, Utah (Only 5 miles from the site where the golden railroad spike was driven!). ATK Aerospace is the leader in solid rocket motor development and production, with customers ranging from the Air Force, Navy and NASA (They made those big, white boosters for the space shuttle!), to private space companies like Orbital Sciences and United Launch Alliance. I worked as part of the Ballistics and Performance Analysis group, which works on designing what the inside of the rocket motors will look like and analyzing test and flight data to determine if the motor performed as expected.

Terhall ISU in Utah

Iowa State ATK Interns

Even though I can’t talk about too many specifics about what I worked on, I couldn’t believe some of the cool projects I was fortunate to work on! I worked on NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS), which is going to be mankind’s biggest and most powerful rocket to date and set for a test flight in early 2018. I also wrote and signed a report for the Air Force as the “Responsible Engineer,” which I thought was pretty cool! I also wrote large portions of a new rocket motor uncertainty analysis computer program for ATK, which will surely be around for many years to come. I was very thankful to be able to work on as large a variety of interesting projects as I did – I was essentially treated as if I was a full-time engineer.

Terhall cave

Exploring a cave!

Terhall arches

Trip to Arches National Park

ATK has a system where employees work longer hours during the week, but have every other Friday off (3 day weekends!), which allowed me and the other interns to take several trips over the summer. I lived only five minutes from the mountains, so I was able to do plenty of hiking and camping, as well as visit several national and state parks. The definite highlight of the summer trips was a trip with 18 interns to Lake Powell, where we rented a houseboat and speedboat for four days. During the week after work it was really nice to not have to worry about homework or clubs, like during school, and just be able to relax and play way too much sand volleyball with the other interns.

Terhall Lake power

The Famous Lake Powell trip

Overall, it was an awesome summer and I got to know the other interns from across the nation really well, which will undoubtedly prove helpful as I move forward with my career. ATK was a great company to work for, but I have actually accepted a full-time position with another engineering company that I’m very excited about! (And will probably elaborate on in another blog post!)

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