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John Williams

Class of 2014. B.S., Aerospace Engineering

John Williams

I started my engineering career as part of the Edison Engineering ​​​​​​​Development Program (EEDP) at GE Aviation in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a rotational program where I had a chance to work with additive manufacturing, combust or design analysis, and preliminary design. 

After I received my master’s from the Edison Program, I worked for two years as a dynamics engineer. I worked on the engine test campaign for the GE9X that powers the Boeing 777. Over the summer of 2019, I was recruited by NASA to join the Vibroacoustics Team at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Tell us about the work you are doing and how it relates to the Artemis Missions.

I work directly on the Space Launch System rocket currently ready for launch later this year at Kennedy Space Center. My team handles high frequency vibrations and shock loads on the entire Space Launch System vehicle.

My focus has been on the Orion Stage Adaptor and its CubeSat payloads. CubeSats are small satellites the size of shoeboxes each packed with unique science experiments to further our understanding of deep space. I oversaw verification of flight readiness for each of the 10 CubeSats hitching a ride on Artemis I. The most exciting CubeSat is OMOTENASH built by our international partners at Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the University of Tokyo. It will attempt to land on the lunar surface!

As a result of my experience, I am the subject matter expert for vibration, shock, and acoustics concerning secondary payloads for the Artemis program. This is for both the Block 1 and Block 1B configurations of the Space Launch System.

As humans return to the moon and look to explore beyond, what are you most excited to learn from the mission?

My focus at work has been on getting the launch vehicle ready to be the backbone of the Artemis program. I’m most excited about Gateway, NASA’s planned Lunar Outpost in orbit around the moon. Deep space is a VERY dangerous environment for humans, and Gateway will give us the building blocks to understand how to survive.

What knowledge have you gained from being part of such an expansive, multidisciplinary endeavor?

It matters what you know, but you will never know enough. Sometimes you are the only person in the room that knows what to do because you’re the first person to ever do it. That part is scary, but at the same time there are engineers in their 80s at NASA that are there to coach and lead you. Lean on those older engineers — they may be grumpy, but they are extremely helpful.

How did Virginia Tech prepare you for your current role?

Everything. All of it. I cannot speak for others, but I am using what I learned at Virginia Tech almost daily at NASA. I had the hardest time in dynamics with Professor Glenn Kraige. It was the most challenging course in my opinion. But now, I literally do dynamics every day.

Want to share your story?

Contact: Jama Green, External Relations Manager