Indian American student wants to help astronauts further explore space

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Kriston Ramdass works on prototype attachments for repair of thruster valves for the Orion spacecraft’s European Service Module. The Penn State junior spent eight months working at a co-op for Moog. (Courtesy: Kriston Ramdass/Penn State University)

Indian American Penn State student Kriston Ramdass, was recruited last year to work at Moog in a co-op and was told “you’re going to be fixing the Orion spacecraft,” according to a university press release.

The aerospace engineering major and Schreyer Honors Scholar, then spent eight months in a co-op at Moog’s failure investigation department, where he also worked on a spacecraft that will be part of an upcoming NASA mission.

According to a university press release, Moog built more than 140 thrusters for Orion’s European Service Module and initial testing showed that valves on five of those thrusters had failed, which Ramdass and his team had to figured out that the valves that had failed were cracking after being shipped and had been made by the same machine.

“We were presented with obstacles that may be within the company or within another company’s products. Our job was to figure out what’s going wrong, why it’s happening, how to fix it, and then how to prevent it from happening in the future,” Ramdass is quoted saying in a press release. “We were able to say that only 45 or so of the 140 were susceptible to failing in the future. That really brought down the concern. Replacing 140 valves would have delayed the launch (set for June 2020) two years. Forty-five, we could do this year.”

The next step was developing and implementing a repair plan, which Ramdass presented to a group that included representatives from NASA, Lockheed Martin and the European Space Agency.

“It was not the hiccups that could stop us, but not learning from the hiccups, so I made sure to just take notes of every obstacle we would run into, make changes according to those obstacles, and then avoid those obstacles in the future. We were able to get all those valves repaired within two-and-a-half months, which is really amazing,” Ramdass added.

His next project at Moog involved exploring a similar failure on a Japanese spacecraft that would be used to resupply the International Space Station.

Ramdass said that he has always wanted to be an engineer since he was introduced to the robotics club at his high school by his sister.

It was through the club that he made a trip to Boeing and became hooked on aerospace engineering.

After joining the Schreyer Honors College, Ramdass decided to take advantage of the integrated undergraduate/graduate program, which will allow him to leave Penn State with bachelor’s and master’s degrees but save him a year of school, according to a university press release.

He also wants to pursue a doctorate and looks forward to joining the aerospace engineering industry to help astronauts around the world explore the rest of space.

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