Rocket man wrecks for a living
Some rocket scientists design the engines, some do the aerodynamics, Auckland man Alex Anderson’s job is to break stuff.
Anderson, a Mt Eden resident, is a vehicle test engineer for Rocket Lab.
Rocket Lab is an American company with a base of operations in New Zealand that develops launch vehicles to put small satellites into space.
Anderson’s work involves testing all the various components and systems of a launch vehicle.
‘‘It’s a dream job,’’ Anderson said.
‘‘My job is actually to try and break things that go on the launch vehicle to find out how well the designs are working.
Rocket Lab offers low-cost, dedicated launches for the small satellite market.
While small satellites traditionally have to ride-share on medium and heavy lift vehicles and can wait months to years for an opportunity to launch, Rocket Lab aims to remove these barriers to provide frequent launch opportunities to low Earth orbit.
Their customers include NASA and other companies who conduct scientific research, collect weather and maritime date, provide internet and earth imaging services from space.
Anderson’s love for rockets began when he was growing up in Waiuku.
He used to read a lot of science fiction books and dreamt of the day he would build things like robots.
He graduated from the University of Auckland’s Bioengineering Institute with a PhD in biomedical engineering in May.
As part of his thesis, he developed a scientific instrument which studied samples of a heart muscle using a living heart.
It was the first device to observe muscle cells working together and has enabled a deeper study of the relationships between the systems driving the heart, in health and disease for the future.
Anderson said after university he initially looked into robotic prosthetics and never imagined he would be working for Rocket Lab.
‘‘I didn’t ever think the space side of aerospace would be an option in New Zealand.
‘‘It’s well outside traditional industry in New Zealand.
‘‘So it’s pretty cool to get people do a bit of a double-take and think ‘wait, people are actually doing that in New Zealand’?’’
Alex Anderson of Mt Eden test drives space launch vehicles for a living.