A WIT Student in the Realm of Rockets
November 12, 2014
Nihar Patel, ME '15
Nihar Patel, Mechanical Engineering, 2015
Co-op Employer: SpaceX
Co-op Position: Propulsion Design Intern
Hometown: Bridgewater, MA
For his final co-op, Nihar Patel, ME ’15, thought about the “final frontier”—venturing to California to work at SpaceX, the space transport services company.
Headquartered in Hawthorne, Calif.,and headed by Elon Musk, (who also founded Tesla Motors and PayPal) SpaceX has gained increasing attention for its groundbreaking advances. Established in 2002, SpaceX designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded with the hope of revolutionizing space technology—with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.
For Patel, this ambition is something he gets to witness, and take part in, on an everyday basis. He also relates that working in the astronomical industry had always been his goal. “It’s always been a company I wanted to work with," he said.
As a propulsion design intern, he works on design projects related to rockets. “I work on the dragon capsule, which takes cargo and, hopefully in the future, astronauts to a designated space station,” Patel said. “I work on small components for that and how to fit them on the capsule—spacing wise and structurally.”
Patel mentioned that as a co-op he has a mentor, but still remains largely independent in his work. “(The mentor) guides me throughout the process, but mostly I made the decision of how to go about it,” he said.
Patel also discussed the differences between class and co-op. “In class it’s theoretical applications; when you get to the real world it’s completely different,” he said. “Most of the calculations aren’t given to you. In class, numbers are given to you. Here it’s not like that. You need to figure out what you have and what you don’t.”
As an intern, Patel feels like an integral part of the team at SpaceX. “You get to see a lot of cool things; they don’t hide the major things,” said Patel. “They want the interns to be a part of everything. They show you every detail of what’s going on.”
Regarding his post-graduation plans, “This would definitely be somewhere I would be interested in coming into work,” he said.
“We don’t get any boring work—you make a huge difference at the company,” he said. “It’s hardcore work and a lot of fun.”
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