The Iridium NEXT Mission Team Scholarship program is one of the largest and most significant scholarships in the aerospace industry. Created as part of Iridium’s vision for the future, the scholarship fund annually awards students up to $25,000 who have demonstrated high standards of academic excellence in the “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with a focus on aerospace studies.

2012 winners, Seth Gordon and Alex Long (interview below), have shared how this scholarship has benefited their academic and career aspirations.

How did you find out about the Iridium NEXT Mission Team scholarship?

I was in the middle of my internship at SpaceX last spring when someone from human resources sent an email to all of the interns saying that we were eligible for this scholarship.

Can you tell which company you interned with and how that experience was?

I interned at SpaceX from January to May 2012. I was at the rocket test facility in McGregor, TX working in the group that tests the engines for the Dragon capsule. It was an exciting experience because of the events that happened during my internship, like the testing of a Falcon 9 first stage and Dragon docking with the International Space Station for the first time. It was a great change from my previous internships in a research and design capacity with NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory. As the first experience working for a private company and working in a testing environment, it was very valuable to be able to view space design from this perspective and it helped me define which direction I want to pursue in my aerospace career.

Can you tell us about Iridium NEXT and the Iridium NEXT Mission Team, from your perspective? What impresses you most about the program?

Iridium NEXT is an exciting plan for a satellite constellation that will increase global communications, making the world even smaller. This will help to unite the world in a new way. This is a great example of an innovative company that is not satisfied to live off of its previous successes but wants to continuously innovate and improve upon itself. I have a special interest in satellite design so I look forward to seeing how this new satellite constellation will revolutionize communications as we know it.

What does it mean to you to have been recognized by one of the largest and most significant scholarships in the aerospace industry, and associated with such an exceptional group of aerospace leaders from around the world?

I am deeply honored to have been selected for this award by such a prestigious organization. When I applied, I was hoping that I would be chosen, but I did not actually expect it. I have worked very hard the last few years academically and during my six internships, and it is flattering to have that hard work recognized and rewarded. The award has also meant that my final year as an undergraduate is fully funded without the need to take federal loans which will be a great advantage as I continue on to graduate school. I love working on satellites and I am excited about having a relationship with a premier company within the satellite industry. I hope to have a long career within the aerospace industry and being affiliated with the Iridium NEXT Mission Team is a wonderful first step.

What is your dream job in aerospace? What do you need to do to be able to reach that goal? How does the Iridium NEXT Mission Team scholarship fit into that?

My dream job is to research new technologies for satellites, specifically within the field of deployable structures. I am very passionate about designing technologies for space exploration. One of the current main constraints of space flight is the launch vehicle volume. Deployables help to overcome this constraint by allowing the final size and shape of the spacecraft to exceed the volume of the launch vehicle. However, there are still many unknowns in the design of deployable structures. I will need a PhD to best participate in this research. The Iridium NEXT scholarship, combined with another, fully paid my tuition for my last year of undergraduate studies. This allowed me to avoid taking more loans and working while in school which enabled me to focus more on my academics. This is especially important as I applied to graduate schools this fall.


Interested in applying?

The Iridium NEXT Mission Team Scholarship is now accepting 2013/2014 applications for AIAA Student Members and Iridium NEXT Mission Team interns.

Deadline for submission is May 1, 2013. Apply now!