This is the third in a series of posts “from the bunker,” interviews with the people behind the scenes at every hot fire and cold flow that takes place at XCOR. Today we talk about the role of Control with XCOR engineer Jeremy Voigt (and soon with engineer Geoff Licciardello, who also works in this role at XCOR for another program).
Jeremy Voigt (Control, center). To his left is Brandon Litt (Checklist), and to his right is Jeff Greason (Test Czar).
Bryan Campen: So you started off as an intern? How did you end up in the role of Control?
Jeremy Voigt: For hot fires, interns never get to do things like Control. When I was an intern I started off as Spotter.
Then I graduated to video. Now all of a sudden instead of being outside, I’m inside sitting next to the head table. I can hear everything going on, all of the radio calls. At the same time I started reading checklists for another test stand, and was Red Team for that stand as well.
When I came back as a full time engineer I was given the responsibility of the Truss Test Stand. I started out on Checklist and worked my way up to Control Box.
So now I run Control Box and plan the tests for the Truss Test Stand.
BC: What does that mean?
JV: I’m in charge of the test stand. That means that when there are modifications that need to be done, I will either do them myself or delegate them to people to do, and then check over their work.
Then when it comes time to test, I talk with senior engineers–Doug [Jones], Jeff [Greason] and Dan [DeLong]–and we figure out the objectives of the test and what we need to do to meet them.
Then I will go to the crew and make sure everybody knows what’s going on and make sure they are ready for the test. I’ll send out emails on when we’re going to have the test, when we will have after action meetings and data reviews—all those things.
So I’m kind of the point of contact for the rest of the test crew.
On Control Box, I start days before the actual test. I will do this whenever we’ve broken into the stand. I’ll do a click test where I actuate every single valve. And I don’t do that on the day of the test, I do it beforehand, so that we know when we go out there that we won’t have any problems.
BC: What’s a click test?
JV: A click test is where I go through and actuate all of the valves and make sure the electronics wiring from the control box to the stand to each of the valves works. That they all move when they are supposed to and that they don’t move when they are not supposed to.
BC: Ok, here’s something I’ve heard you mention offhand that I want to ask you about specifically. Is it true during a hot fire that time actually slows down for you?
JV: Yeah. I’m counting in in my head, I have my hand on the stop button and I’m watching the video screens…
…and I think to myself “Oooh, that must have been about a minute! I wonder how the count’s going?”
And then you hear Checklist next to you scream out “Fifteen seconds!”…
On the left, Brandon Litt (Checklist) shouts the count with Jeremy (Control) to his right.
…and you can barely hear him and he’s shouting at the top of his lungs.
And then I say to myself “Oh man, I’ve got a long way to go.”
Every second feels like an hour of just watching, of making sure everything is going right. It’s an unbelievable feeling.
At larger companies, someone my age wouldn’t ever get near that experience. The thing I like about XCOR is I get that opportunity. It’s a lot of fun, getting to fire the rocket engine.
To work on this and then get to be able to test it, that’s unique to XCOR, and I never take it for granted.