Edgar Zapata, NASA Kennedy Space Center, engineer / (semi)retired
An origin story.
Yes, this is now. After 32+ years as a NASA engineer at Kennedy Space Center, 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 the cost modeling, assessment and analysis in many programs thinking through what might come after the Shuttle.
The beginning of my story though begins far away from rockets and spacecraft. Born and raised in New York City, upper west side, by an odd turn of events, rather than end up in finance in NY, I ended up a Mechanical Engineer out of the University of Puerto Rico. I interview with NASA my last summer in college, NASA Kennedy Space Center calls, and in October 1988 I’m in Florida.
For starters, 12 memorable years with the Shuttle program. In 2000, onward to systems engineering and a full time focus on what’s to come. A freshly minted engineer in NASA in the early 1960’s would have followed a similar timeline, after a decade moving on to the then future Shuttle program taking shape. Similarly, now it was 2000. Soon enough we would get started on our generations next program, a new 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. With all we had learned, of course.
Years would pass and too many NASA programs about next steps 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 Experimental Spaceplane (XSP) since 2017, a reusable launch vehicle, and to it’s termination in January 2020, just before finding myself working from home 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 (public) work, I’ll lean toward the numbers, but also try and add the context so necessary for insight about what it all means.
You can contact me. Good questions and thoughts are always welcome.