STPSat-2 Program Manager - Dave Kaufman
Dave Kaufman, program manager for STPSat-2 and its identical follow-on, STPSat-3, joined Ball Aerospace in October 2000. He has both a Ph.D. and M.S. in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology. He also has a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Stanford, and a bachelor’s in mathematics from Willamette University, Salem, OR.
Kaufman started his aerospace career as a thermal engineer in 1994 at Hughes Space and Communications Co. Upon joining Ball Aerospace 10 years ago, Kaufman’s first assignment was Chief Systems Engineer for the Orbital Express phase one study, which ultimately led to program manager responsibilities for the Orbital Express NextSat spacecraft. The 2007 Orbital Express Advanced Technology Demonstration Program was a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) mission that successfully developed and demonstrated autonomous techniques for on-orbit refueling, reconfiguration and repair of satellites.
What is unique about the STPSat-2 Ball Aerospace spacecraft?
STPSat-2 is a small space vehicle with a standard payload interface designed to host a variety of DoD space experiments in a range of low Earth orbits without design changes. It is very compact. We are milking every last bit of performance we can get out of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter volume and mass constraint. When you look inside the spacecraft, it’s like looking under the hood of a Toyota. Every space is filled with components, harness, or structure.
What has given you the most satisfaction as the STPSat-2 program manager?
Being part of such a tight-knit team. Most of us have worked together for over four years. Through some good and some very tough times, late nights, long trips, and more emails than I even want to count we have supported and respected each other. I have learned so much and have had a great time being part of the team.
How did you end up working in aerospace?
When I was a kid, I had a Skylab pop-up book. Space seemed like the ultimate thing to do. Growing up in Vancouver, WA, I didn’t know anyone in the space industry, so working in aerospace was a bit like wishing to be a professional basketball player. A great dream but not very realistic. As I kept going to school (it took me a while!) I guess I just kept taking classes that led me here. On my first on-sight job interview after completing undergraduate work, I got to tour a clean room at Hughes with what seemed like 10 huge spacecraft lining the aisles, and I suddenly knew what I wanted to do when I grew up.
What do you do in your spare time? Ã¢?Â¨
My family enjoys Colorado’s mountains for fishing, hiking, cooking and especially eating. It’s a great feeling when the biggest problem of the day is what I’m going to cook for dinner.
If you weren’t working in aerospace right now, what would you be doing?
Teaching high school calculus and coaching basketball. I come from a family of teachers. I’m definitely the odd ball.
What’s your favorite movie?
The Graduate. It captures the feeling of being lost that I think everyone has at one time.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
I really love my chain saw. There’s nothing that gives me a sense of accomplishment like dropping a few trees and turning them into a stack of firewood.