BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. – 07 NOV 12
Robert Talley: Intern Takes a Stand and Delivers
Aristotle once said, “What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.” This is the very principle internships follow, and at NASA, this principle allows future engineers and scientists to gain hands-on experience in a most unique and highly challenging environment.
For mechanical engineering student Robert Talley, his experience as a NASA intern was both challenging and eye-opening. This summer Talley traveled to Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Bay St. Louis, Miss., from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa to participate in a 10 week experience working on various rocket propulsion projects with his mentors, Harry Ryan and David Coote.
Talley stated, “My project entailed doing background research on nuclear thermal rockets (NTR) and nuclear thermal propulsion.” This research allowed him to “calculate the necessary pipe materials and diameters, tank type and volume and the state of the propellant in order to sustain a ‘nuclear’ test on a rocket engine without using a nuclear reactor.”
The next phase of his project required him to determine whether or not pebble bed heaters/reactors could be used as a substitute for the nuclear reactor as the heating and pressuring mechanism for the propellant. He clarified, “My project was basically the initial skeleton to get NASA Stennis started with the nuclear thermal rocket program” which “will aid others in producing nuclear powered rockets in the future.”
In addition to his main project duties, Talley was tasked with projects concerning the test stands housed at SSC. He determined downstream pressure for the B2 test stand piping network, the oxygen needed for the stand, and he even found how much heat leak was in several piping segments. “The best part about my internship was being able to work on a variety of interesting projects,” admitted Talley. “I learn[ed] a great deal about heat transfer, fluids, and mechanics of materials; each of which I took a class on in college, but NASA took them to a new level and helped me to see how they apply to the real world.”
NASA also benefited from Talley’s participation on the project. Ryan related Talley’s technical productivity to that of a fresh out hire and said, “I was very impressed with Robert’s work this summer. He really helped our projects.”
Talley concluded, “NASA gave me an opportunity to further my love of engineering and aerospace itself. I now believe that this is where I want to spend my life, working on these sorts of projects.”