Howdy folks,We're the Texas Rocket Engineering Lab - an interdisciplinary research laboratory fostering the next generation of aerospace leaders at The University of Texas at Austin. We have over 160 engineers, designers, business professionals and more working together to be the first college students to launch a liquid bi-propellant rocket into space by 2021.

Our Principal Launch Vehicle Engineer, Vishnu, is hosting an AMA/takeover of our Instagram account (@TexasRocketLab) TODAY with a special live session from 5-5:30pm CST. If you have any interest in rocketry, the New Space Industry, or how to get more involved in STEM, he’s got the knowledge! We’ll be reposting some of the questions and his responses below. Comment what you wanna know about rocketry and catch the Instagram Live to see your question answered! We’ll post the full video here later, just in case you miss it.

Vishnu Selvakumar is a third-year aerospace engineering major at The University of Texas at Austin. Vishnu is the current Launch Vehicle Principal Engineer for the Texas Rocket Engineering Lab, where he manages the design, build, and test of the lab’s Halcyon launch vehicle, with experience working at Firefly Aerospace*.* He joined TREL in January 2019 as the Structures Lead before assuming his current role. Some of his core engineering interests are human space exploration, completing new projects from scratch, and figuring out why the Rockets play so much iso-ball. Vishnu has also had the opportunity to complete an internship at Firefly Aerospace and will be back there this Summer supporting their propulsion team in the launch of their first rocket, Alpha.

In addition to TREL, Vishnu was also a member of the Longhorn Marching Band and has played the trumpet since 6th grade*.* Vishnu grew up playing basketball, football, and cricket in the suburbs of Cypress, TX. He enjoys following Houston sports teams like the Rockets, Texans, and …Astros (H-Town, hold it down!!!) and has been trying to find a way to replace Lewis Hamilton of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team since the beginning of quarantine. Until he finally gets on the grid though, you’ll get to see him make an appearance on his TREL Instagram takeover.

Ask Vishnu Anything!!!!


Comments: 32 • Responses: 10  • Date: 

tengallonvisor7 karma

What is your endgame by studying rockets/ aerospace? NASA I assume?

Wanted to add I grew up right outside Austin in the hill country and loved going to Austin. 6th street and soco are a good time.

TexasRocketLab7 karma

Eventually, I want to do something that will benefit humanity as a whole. I've talked a lot about being an astronaut for a long time, but the work they're doing is ultimately to help us understand more about our world and our universe, and to find out what we can be doing better down here.

I'd love to work at NASA, but private industry would be pretty great too! I'm really enjoying my work right now at Firefly Aerospace, which is a small space launch vehicle company right outside of Austin. I've already gotten to do some really cool stuff there (which I can't go into too much detail about—ITAR regulations!)

Cool to hear that you're from the area! I'm really missing those Honey Butter Chicken Biscuits and the food on Guad in quarantine right about now.

RelativeLemon67 karma

What was it like for your first launch?

TexasRocketLab7 karma

My first launch was amazing. We worked on a rocket all semester with the Longhorn Rocketry Association, and over the summer we watched it go up, watched the parachutes deploy and the rocket safely return to the ground. It was such a cool experience and I can't wait to start launching bigger vehicles with TREL!

kingfisherwizard5 karma

What got you interested in rockets?

TexasRocketLab6 karma

The shuttle program and the Apollo program inspired so many people around the world to try new things and to push the limits of the human experience. I think that really influenced me when I was young. It's such a unique field and I was really excited to be a part of something like that!

squidkid774 karma

If you could design your own dream spacecraft, with no restrictions besides the laws of physics, what would it look like and what would it do?

TexasRocketLab6 karma

WARP DRIVE, of course!

I think a big limitation of space travel right now isn't necessarily the technology or the spacecraft, but more about how humans will be able to withstand extended travel in space. Things like how will our vision and bone density hold up are important questions. If we could engineer something that would move us fast enough to avoid long-term space travel, but still be able to explore other places in the galaxy, I think that would be the biggest game-changer!

uburoy3 karma

What are the main limits for building rockets at student level?

TexasRocketLab1 karma

At a student level, I would say the main limit to building rockets is the lack of proper documentation. At the Texas Rocket Engineering Lab (TREL), this is something that we are always trying to emphasize. Rockets can take a very long time to design, build, and test. The biggest thing that keeps people from being able to launch them is people graduating with their knowledge and experience only in their head. By documenting failures, successes, design criteria etc., a project has a better chance of outliving the people that created it and actually being completed.

youy232 karma

What do you hope for the industry in general over the next 20-30 years? Also, what do YOU specifically hope to be apart of or advance with Aerospace during your career?

TexasRocketLab2 karma

I want to see the industry continue to increase human access to space while continuing to develop technologies that can improve life on Earth. I also hope that in 20-30 years, we have a better understanding of how space affects the human body with ways to mitigate any adverse conditions. I want humans to become the focus of space, not the rockets that get them up there.
If I can’t be one of the people that lands on the moon or Mars, I’ll make sure I have a part in making sure that someone else does and play a big role in making sure that happens. I like working on rockets because it’s the closest I can be to being an astronaut, but I’d be thrilled to work on any system that puts people on other celestial bodies. I’m inspired by the prospect of human’s exploring the vastness of space the same way Lewis and Clark were in their expedition across America.

DrVerryBerry2 karma

What movie/media portrayals of your work are most true to life so you think?

TexasRocketLab2 karma

Forgetting about rocketry for a moment, a movie which resonates with the work I do is Ford vs. Ferrari. In the movie, Ken Miles (the Ford driver), stays up late to tinker with parts in the racecar to bring the car to its highest potential, for nights on end The grind it takes to really improve something is something found in every industry but is very prevalent in the rocket business. The pay-off comes when you see something you built or contributed to do its job. That feeling of fulfillment is what motivates me through the hardest part of the grind the same way it probably did for Ken. The passion, hustle, and drive 📷 seen in Ford vs. Ferrari matches my feelings when I’m working on rockets.

putintrollbot2 karma

How many times have you caught yourself saying "It's not rocket science!" when it was, in fact, actual rocket science?

TexasRocketLab2 karma

I don’t think I’ve ever said that (and meant it seriously). The beauty of the rocket industry is in its diversity. Sure, you might need engineers to design your engines, but you also need lawyers to make sure you’ve got your FAA clearances ,artists to inspire the public to really understand the purpose behind a mission, and businessmen to get the money you need. So, the next time you say “It’s not rocket science!” about something…it probably is.

youy232 karma

What do you hope for the industry in general over the next 20-30 years? Also, what do YOU specifically hope to be apart of or advance with Aerospace during your career?

P.S. if you could have been born again and joined the aerospace field again, do you with you joined 30 years ago, now, or 30 years in the future?

TexasRocketLab1 karma

I think now is a great time to be in aerospace! With the revival of the New Space industry and more conversations about human space exploration, there is a clear path forward for everyone in aerospace, and specifically rocketry. I’ve realized that my favorite part about working on rockets is the R&D required to get them working. With new concepts for landing humans on the Moon and Mars, I am super excited for the opportunity to build these projects from the ground up.

NegligibleDrag1 karma

Do you think space tourism will available within the next century for regular people? Why/why not?

TexasRocketLab3 karma

As much as I want it to happen, I do not think space tourism will be as available as a skiing trip or a Disney World vacation within the next century. Right now, it seems like the industry has a pretty good handle on rockets. Companies like SpaceX and Rocket Lab have proved that we can put things in space reliably, so I do not think this will be the limiting factor. It is the other infrastructure that still needs much more time to develop. For example, there are a lot of improvements that still need to be made to environmental control and life support systems (ECLSS). The first crew lived on the ISS 20 years ago, and there are still issues with removing CO2 from the air. As much as I love rockets, they are only a small piece of the puzzle. We have got a lot of work ahead us in supporting life for the masses in space.