Spotlight on Deepak Atyam / by Haley Smith

Meet Deepak Atyam - his childhood love for space after visiting the Kennedy Space Center has led him to ventures at NASA, SpaceX, and beyond. Now, he's even patented the first 3D printed rocket engine.

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What first piqued your interest in Space?

A childhood trip to the Kennedy Space Center inspired me to pursue the ingenuity of past aerospace engineers’ contributions to flight and propulsion. My parents took my brother and me to the Kennedy Space Center where I was able to witness the landing of the space shuttle Discovery. Feeling the power of the shockwave was an unforgettable experience that has shaped the imagination of a passionate young engineer to understand that nothing was impossible. I was inspired to work for NASA and took advantage of the opportunity to do just that in high school. 

You've done so many projects with NASA, at SpaceX, at Purdue, and beyond. Which was the most memorable and why? 

When I was 17, I started my first job working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Mars Rover Curiosity. I was a 17 year old teenager that got to work on a rover that was literally launching to another planet. That blew my mind. I was able to play a part in changing the way humanity grew and started colonizing new planets and hopefully the search for life outside of earth. All of these existential thoughts I've had over my lifetime were actually trying to be answered. I felt like I had a higher purpose and the community of mentors, engineers, and scientists were extremely supportive of me to grow and learn. It was the best job I've ever had and my mentor gave me the tools and motivation to change the world.

Tell us about your first patented product. 

My first patent granted was a utility patent on the first 3D printed rocket engine from a university. It's not really something I'm going to go out and sell, but the team was able to come up with really unique ways of designing a rocket engine unrestrained from normal manufacturing constraints! We were extremely proud of our work even though we knew it was a long way to actually take these ideas to the commercial industry.