United Space Alliance - David Eckols - Orbiter Structures Engineering

Although he grew up in South America, distance could not lessen David Eckols’ interest in the U.S. Space Program.

As a boy in Caracas, Venezuela, where his parents were American citizens working for U.S. oil companies, Eckols was fascinated with airplanes and rockets, as well as with stories of ancient explorers who dedicated and risked their lives to discover new worlds.

“I realized I wanted to become an engineer at an early age, perhaps in sixth grade. I wanted to build airplanes, so I knew then that engineering would be my career of choice,” he said.

While earning his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of South Florida, Eckols started working as a co-op student at United Space Alliance (USA). Employed in the Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters department, which works with the Materials and Process Engineering group at Kennedy Space Center, he was asked to remain at USA following graduation. He now works full time as a Mechanical/Materials/Aerospace Engineer on Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Currently, Eckols is supporting both the manufacture of the Booster Separation Motors in Utah and the USA Systems Engineering & Integration office in the Propulsion Systems area at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Eckols recently began sharing his expertise with small businesses that turn to SATOP for technical assistance (USA is a Silver level SATOP Alliance Partner). “David is a young and dynamic engineer, a real go-getter who isn’t afraid to take new SATOP projects despite his busy travel schedule,” said Chris Gilfriche, SATOP Florida Director.

Eckols finds his involvement with SATOP to be rewarding in much the same way his job is, saying “I have a great sense of pride from serving the nation in a positive and constructive way, and I am very honored to be part of the next step in human exploration and the discovery of new worlds and frontiers.”

One-on-One with David Eckols

What job you would have had if you had not become an engineer and why?
It’s hard for me to think about enjoying an occupation other than being an engineer in the U.S. Space Program; I would have probably chosen to become an explorer and travel around the world searching for new ecosystems, or perhaps a marine biologist to help decipher the underwater world.

Do you enjoy any pastimes not related to engineering? If so, what are they?
I’m a surfer, self-taught musician and inventor in my free time. I love surfing every day of the year and coming up with new concepts in surfboard designs. I also enjoy scuba diving, camping, sailing, and attending as many rock concerts as I possibly can.

Engineering project you wish you could have worked on:
I would have loved to work on a highly challenging mission such as NASA’s Apollo 13, in which all the scientific community had to dedicate 100 percent of their talent and creativity to safely bring the crew back home in a critical moment. This was, in my opinion, a solid proof of commitment to technical excellence.

Personal accomplishment(s) of which you are most proud:
One of the personal accomplishments I am most proud of is the fact that I independently took the challenge of pursuing a professional career through college, without any external support or guidance, and I was able to succeed not only in my career field, but also outside of the scope of work by helping enrich my community and inspire others.

What do you enjoy most about being a SATOP volunteer?
I enjoy the fact that I can serve my community by providing consulting services to a company that is facing a technical challenge. Receiving feedback from these companies about success in the matter gives me a rewarding and satisfying taste of victory.