Adam Cooper ’09 first became interested in a career in the space industry when he joined his high school robotics club, quickly becoming intrigued by rovers. It was this interest that led him first to Florida Tech, then onto a career at NASA.
After graduating from Florida Tech with an aerospace engineering bachelor’s degree, Cooper got his foot in the door, working in quality assurance at a NASA co-op. He later transitioned to NASA’s mechanical engineering branch, focused mostly on launch vehicles, and today, he is a subject-matter expert on composite overwrapped pressure vessels for both the Commercial Crew and Launch Services programs.
“It’s our job to kind of understand how the vehicle works and any inherent risks or concerns there might be,” Cooper says. “We assess any sort of changes or nonconformances that happen, we share concerns we may have and we bridge any gap in knowledge between the contractor and the program.”
His role requires a blend of nitty gritty, mathematics-based knowledge and the ability to apply it to the program—skills he says he honed during his time at Florida Tech.
“Florida Tech is definitely like a boot camp when it comes to a lot of this. It pushes you to really, really get to know the information and how to best interpret it while also figuring out how to balance—time management and project skills,” he says. “That was definitely a very tough and beneficial few years that I spent there—really got me ready to handle major projects and how to make sure I focus on what is important.”
While launches are easily the most rewarding part of his job, Cooper says that seeing the missions through beyond the launch can be equally gratifying. And as the space industry continues to broaden and evolve, he is right where he wants to be.
“As far as being exposed to a lot of different things, NASA is the place to be. I get to broaden my knowledge across multiple different launch vehicles, multiple different centers, multiple different projects—to see where the cutting-edge technology is headed.”
TV SHOW OF THE MOMENT: “Cowboy Bebop.”
YOUR SUPERPOWER: Timing stop lights.
ALTERNATE CAREER: Woodworking.
PETS: Two dogs: a lab and a mutt.
USUAL WEEKEND ACTIVITY: Camping.
YOUR VICE: Ice cream.
YOUR OLYMPIC SPORT: Curling.
FAVORITE FLORIDA TECH MEMORY: Working at Gleason Performing Arts Center.
This piece was featured in the winter 2022 edition of Florida Tech Magazine.