Stuart Scott Rogers played first-class cricket for Somerset and captained the side from 1950 to 1952.
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Stuart Rogers is an aerospace engineer who has worked at NASA Ames Research Center for 26 years developing and applying computational fluid dynamics software tools. He has worked on many applications including spacecraft ascent aerodynamics, debris analysis, high-lift aerodynamics, propulsion, hydrodynamics, and bio-fluid flows. He currently leads the NASA Ames ascent aerodynamics group for the Space Launch System program. Recent projects include ascent aerodynamics and debris analysis for the Space Shuttle program, and aerodynamics of the Orion Launch Abort Vehicle.
A picture in front of the Pleiades supercomputer at NASA Ames Research Center.
Personal NASA homepage with a list of publications (at the bottom).
Update: No longer answering questions.
Thanks for all your great questions! This was a great experience.
What advice could you give to those who are studying aerospace engineering in college and want to be involved with NASA or something similar one day?
Work hard to learn the material, and follow your passions. Follow the branch of aerospace engineering that you really enjoy. Be assertive by getting to know your professors and follow their advice to open doors for opportunities such as becoming an intern. A lot of NASA's money is actually spent paying other companies to design, research, and build things. So you can become involved in NASA projects not just by working for NASA, but also working for other companies in the aerospace field. Hopefully you can become involved in something really cool like helping to send the first human to Mars!
What's the most important information you have learned in school that you use it every day in your field?
F = M*A. It governs everything. If you want to move faster or change direction, you have to apply pressure.
Hi Stuart, thanks for the AMA.
Do you think we'll see 'far-out' tech like space elevators, colonization, dyson rings, etc within our lifetime?
What are your thoughts on presidential candidate Bernie Sanders?
What a great question. One would like to think that we could build a space elevator, colonize the solar system, and explore all the near-by worlds in our lifetime. But, there are still many technological challenges that we have to overcome before these are all possible. Its really cool ideas like this that get young people interested in pursuing a career in aerospace. Perhaps with enough really smart people and enough funding, mankind could soon make the stuff of science fiction a science reality.
I'm not sure what is going in here, but thanks for doing this AMA.
What is, in your opinion, the most exciting thing about the Space Launch System program? What are your thoughts about the private space industry and companies such as Space-X and Blue Origin? And finally, do you play Kerbal Space Program? If so, care to share any of your rocket designs with us?
The most exciting thing about the Space Launch System for me is that we will be launching the worlds biggest rocket on its first flight in just over 2 years. This rocket will then be flying astronauts out further from earth than ever before. Its a big step toward exploring the moon, asteroids, and eventually Mars. Its great to see the successes of commercial companies. Hopefully these efforts will enable a cheaper ride into space in the near future, and possibly enabling a whole new space-based industry. I have yet to play Kerbal, I hope to someday have more free time to use computers for fun instead of just for work.
Hi Mr. Rogers!
I had the opportunity to visit Ames last year during the Open House and saw the Pleiades presentation. Seems to me that most analysis could be simulated using Pleiades. But are there elements that must be actually tested over and over again in reality and would that element be tested on Ames campus or other NASA field centers? Or I am completely wrong on that account and only something can be simulated...
Also, how's Hangar 1 doing?
As an engineer, I never want to risk an astronaut's life based solely on the results of a computer simulation. NASA places significant emphasis on verification and validation. We continue to rely on wind-tunnel testing, flight testing, and computational simulations together before we certify our analysis. All of this testing and simulation is performed at the all 10 NASA centers across the country. In particular, the SLS program relies heavily on engineering expertise from all over the country. Hanger 1 is still bare, just the steel members. We haven't seen the crew of Myth Busters out there lately.
Hey thanks for the AMA. What's the greatest engineering challenge your team faced while working on a project?
The biggest challenge for me was being part of the team tasked with certifying that the Space Shuttle was safe to fly again after the Columbia accident in 2002. Most everyone working to fix the ascent debris problems that caused that accident had personally known someone on the Columbia crew. Its a sobering reminder that the energy that it takes to send a rocket out of the Earth's atmosphere is very difficult to control, and that to even build a machine like that leaves very little margin for error.
Hello Mr. Rogers,
What type of models do you currently do? Could you provide some technical background to your work to those of us with an interest?
I am only familiar with turbulence/combustion CFD in the form of RANS, LES, DNS - do you have anything new or interesting you would like to share with us, perhaps something you're really excited about?
Currently we are using Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes CFD solvers to compute the aerodynamic loads on the Space Launch System during ascent. At the moment we are building an aerodynamic database for the booster-separation event, very challenging as the database has over 10 independent variables. We have to run so many different simulations that we do not have the computational resources to use more advanced models such as DES, LES, or especially DNS. I invite you to look through my list of publications available on my website for some recent papers. The link is at the top of the page.
Hi Mr. Rogers,
I'm an [more junior] engineer at a DoD research center with degrees in aerospace/space engineering. It so happens that I also apply computation fluid dynamics software tools to a variety of interesting problems using the DoD equivalent supercomputers. I have been working very hard to transition from my civil service position with the DoD to one within NASA doing the same type of CFD work you describe. I routinely explore the usual routes (USAJobs, etc.) to find openings with little success. I feel as though I have the background and certainly the desire, but haven't had luck finding a way in. Do you have any suggestions as far as ways that someone like me could make such a transition?
Also, what CFD code(s) are used the most within your group?
Thanks for taking the time to do this AMA!
It is very difficult to find civil-service openings within NASA. Federal budget pressures are severe, and NASA is currently hiring only one person for every three that retire. I would recommend attending some of the technical conferences, such as the AIAA SciTech and Aviation conferences, present some of your work, and networking to meet people and find where the best job opportunities can be found.
UPDATE: Our current project is primarily using the Cart3D and Overflow CFD codes.
Tell me about the job interview process, and how you think you did?
I never went through a formal interview process. I was chosen for an internship based on my grades and transcript. This allowed me to work as a student here at NASA. Once the internship was over, I was offered a job based on my performance as an intern. Other than that, I am not in charge of hiring people and thus am not involved in the day-to-day interviewing process.
What is a basic, everyday skill or task that you have always been terrible at?
Commuting, I hate bay-area traffic.
What is the best experience you have had with a complete stranger?
My one and only viewing of a Space Shuttle launch at Kennedy was the 2nd to last Shuttle mission, STS-133. I worked the countdown from the Launch Control Center at Kennedy. After the launch, the tradition is everyone gets to eat "launch beans", so you get a bowl of baked beans - its good luck. As I am dishing up my beans, the NASA Administrator and former Shuttle astronaut Charlie Bolden steps up right beside me with a big smile, and said "That was a great launch, congratulations". He reaches out to shake my hand, and as I shake his hand I realize I had a blob of beans on my right hand, which is now on Mr. Bolden's hand. So thats how I got to meet our current NASA Administrator.
Thanks for the opportunity!
The 2015-16 NASA budget just drained hundreds of millions of dollars out of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services and bumped up the SLS budget with $544 million nobody asked for - - what's it like working on the most favored NASA budget project over less-funded projects, and is there any chagrin from other departments / projects for such status?
I have worked on may different projects in the past 26 years, and a number of them have been cancelled due to lack of budget. So for the moment, its great to be working on a project that is funded. The budget that you mention is just one of the proposed budgets, we don't know for sure how next year's funding will end up. Within our Modeling and Simulation branch in the NASA Advanced Supercomputer division, our branch members support virtually every one of NASA's mission directorates in one way or another. We always seem to be very busy doing great things no matter what happens in Congress.
which hardware/software remains scratch-built for NASA vs commodity stuff?
On the software side, NASA has developed a lot of analysis codes in-house that have become the best in the world at what they do, often these are based on decades of research. That NASA-based research does find its way into commercial software as well, there are many examples of NASA technology spinning off and creating commercial industries of their own. And in turn NASA will use commercial software when it makes sense to do so. But many of our analysis tasks are unique to NASA, and so the analysis and design that we do can only be done with in-house codes. Many of these codes are also optimized to run on our supercomputers.
UPDATE: On the hardware side, using commodity processors has enabled our NASA Advanced Supercomputing division to build one of the worlds fastest computers. Our biggest computer, pleiades, now uses over 200,000 cores, composed of four generations of Intel processors. For more information see http://www.nas.nasa.gov/hecc
For young adults who are looking to work in a similar field in the future, what career path would you recommend? Are there any extra-curriculars you participated in that helped you get where you are today?
I always like to tell young people to find a field that you really love. That makes it so much easier to excel and to open doors to an awesome career. As a kid I loved building model rockets. I also loved playing sports, having a physical outlet always made it easier to study hard and make it through tough classes.
What will the new SLS be able to do as compared to the Saturn V? Why do we need a new rocket?
Thats a great question. Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle, the US does not even have the capability to launch astronauts to the International Space Station in low-earth orbit, much less to further destinations like the moon and Mars. The Space Launch System (SLS) will provide a heavy-lift capability allowing us to launch equipment and people to low-earth orbit, to the moon, and eventually to Mars. The first configuration of the SLS will be 10% bigger than the Saturn V, with follow-on configurations capable of nearly double that payload.
The NASA Ames Research Center has changed a fair amount over the last 26 years. Are there any areas or building currently there, or that used to be there, you have especially fond memories of?
I used to work in a modular building (a trailer) at the far northern edge of the center, where I had a great view toward the San Francisco Bay, with lots of wildlife such as foxes, burrowing owls, hawks, and even a golden eagle. Since then, the expansion of Google has taken over this part of the center, so I miss having the great view.
Favorite soup, sandwich, and dessert?
Clam chowder, pastrami, and then more clam chowder.
Awesome! It's a pleasure.
At what age did you realize that this is what you wanted to do?
I grew up in Seattle, and my earliest memories include going to the airport, I used to love to see airplanes up close, watching them take off and land. I also vividly remember watching Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon on a small TV in our livingroom when I was 7 years old. So I have always been excited by aerospace. Then in school, I was always good at math, and loved learning to program computers. That led me to study engineering college, and I was hooked.
Do you watch Breaking Bad?
WARNING. OP RESPONDED WITH A SPOILER
WARNING. OP RESPONDED WITH A SPOILER
WARNING. OP RESPONDED WITH A SPOILER
Not anymore, I have seen each episode twice. Spoiler