Virginia Tech®home

Tony DeFilippis

Class of 2019. B.S., Aerospace Engineering

Tony DeFilippis

After graduating from Virginia Tech, I worked in the commercial civil space for two years with the advanced programs group for Lockheed Martin in Denver, Colorado. During that time, I primarily contributed to the electrical system design for the Artemis-3 Human/Lunar Landing System as part of the Blue Origin-led National Team. I also made contributions to the electrical and RF system requirements verification and validation for Orion, as well as performed studies on lunar resource extraction and utilization. 

For the last year and a half, I have been working as the responsible engineer for Dragon Hardware in the Loop (HIL) full-vehicle avionics testing for SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. This encompasses our cargo and human spaceflight missions, both to the International Space Station and free-flying. I also support development for the crewed Starship lunar lander crew trainers, avionics interfaces, and test-beds that will be a part of the Artemis-3 landing, as well as future missions to Mars.

How did Virginia Tech prepare you for your current role?

I led the RockSat-X team and VT CubeSat team while at Virginia Tech. Working with and leading great teams of engineers taught me how to truly trust others in a way that best enables myself and a team to succeed. The ability to get hands-on with hardware taught me lessons that helped me obtain internships and full-time positions. At Virginia Tech, I was continually challenged in ways that caused me to grow technically as an engineer and emotionally as a person, which I am very thankful for.

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

Prior to graduating from Virginia Tech I was on the Orbital ATK/Northrop Grumman proposal team that won the HALO contract to build the portion of the Deep Space Gateway. This is where astronauts will stay long term as they orbit the moon. I've also made contributions to Orion (Artemis-1), Blue Origin's Lunar Lander proposal, and research into lunar surface resource extraction, base camps, and power generation. 

I now work on the SpaceX Starship lander that will bring the first woman and person of color to the lunar surface (and eventually Mars). My favorite part of this role right now  is working with former and current astronauts to familiarize themselves with the displays and interfaces they will use to fly Artemis, along with developing and testing the hardware to support them!

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

The Artemis mission will first provide incredible, scientific information about the lunar surface. We’ll peer into permanently shadowed craters in the south pole and see if we can, for the first time, extract water - a critical ingredient both for human survival and rocket fuel. That discovery will be the cornerstone of advancing human spaceflight this century. What we learn from Lunar Artemis missions will form the backbone for how we colonize Mars and become a multi-planetary species.

Outside of the science, I'm most excited about Artemis inspiring the next generation of young people to want to be part of space exploration in any capacity — the same way that Apollo did for previous generations. We have the chance to lay a great foundation for the future and be part of something historic.

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

I've gained the ability to question information presented to you — to try to understand the reasoning behind decisions or designs to gain more insight into how endeavors are truly conducted. I've learned to never be surprised with how quickly the right people can do the right thing, as well as to trust people with great responsibility and know they'll be able to succeed. I’ve gained trust and confidence in myself to truly own something and to be the part that supports it all coming together. 

What do you think your younger self would think about your current work on Artemis?

Since I was very young I knew I wanted to be a part of returning to the moon or exploring the solar system. I didn't think, even a couple years ago, that I would be involved in the way I am now. I hope that my younger self would be thankful for the people around him who helped me along the way, as well as recognizing both the luck and privilege that allowed me to get where I am. My younger self would know I'm living the dream and hope I can get to even greater heights!

 

Want to share your story?

Contact: Jama Green, External Relations Manager