Edgar Zapata, NASA Kennedy Space Center, engineer / (semi)retired

Yes, this is now. After 32+ years as a NASA engineer at Kennedy Space Center, I retired in March 2021. To teammates, I was the “Space Shuttle Ops,” or just “Ops,” operations, ground systems, or voice for “operability” in future programs and Shuttle upgrades. I was fortunate to be part of a great team at KSC and to work with the DOD, Air Force, DARPA, and others along the way too. Over time, wanting to do the math, I would do cost modeling, assessment, and analysis in many programs thinking through what might come after the Space Shuttles.

My story, though, begins far away from rockets and spacecraft. Born and raised in New York City, upper west side, I ended up a Mechanical Engineer out of the University of Puerto Rico by an odd turn of events. I interviewed with NASA during my last summer in college, NASA Kennedy Space Center called, and in October 1988, I’m in Florida.

For starters, 12 memorable years with the Shuttle program. Then, in 2000, onward to systems engineering and a full-time focus on what was to come. A freshly minted engineer in NASA in the early 1960s would have followed a similar path, after a decade moving on to the then-future Shuttle program taking shape. Similarly, soon enough, we would get started on my generation’s next program, a new fully reusable launcher, right? Of course, this would be something a next-generation (or two?) more advanced than the graceful Shuttle orbiters, much more affordable, and flying more often. Given everything we learned from flying Shuttles, of course!

Well, not quite.

Years would pass, and too many NASA programs about our next step would come and go. You can read all about these at the old NASA KSC “Next Gen” site I began in 1994. Fast forward to working with DARPA on the reusable Experimental Spaceplane (XSP) since 2017, and to its termination in January 2020, just before finding myself working from home due to the pandemic in my last year with NASA.

I am now retired but definitely not tired.

In this blog, I will share my experience, thoughts, and occasional analysis and numbers about NASA, space exploration, and development, for the kind of growth that always seems just around the corner. There will be stories about where we have been, where we might head, and what must change to go anywhere. Building on my prior work, I’ll lean toward the numbers, but I will add the stories and thoughts about what it all might all mean.

You can contact me at edzapata999 at gmail.com.


Edgar Zapata