February 25, 2021
Dr. Russ H. has spent more than half his career at SNC, and is one of the original engineers of the Dream Chaser® spaceplane. He has been instrumental in the success of Dream Chaser leading the team through 17 wind tunnel campaigns and two full-scale flight tests. In In his latest role, Russ is an associate technical fellow working on NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) program as part of the Artemis lunar exploration program and other forward-thinking programs, as part of SNC’s new Technical Fellowship Program.
“The Technical Fellowship program appealed to me because of its emphasis on technical contributions rather than management skills,” says Russ. “People can be useful, but technology doesn’t invent itself.”
Tell us a little bit about your career journey – what got you interested in the work you do?
I’ve been drawn to space and invention since I was a kid reading the Tom Swift Jr. series and watching Fireball XL-5. I thought I would be an astronomer when I started college, but I realized I enjoyed building things even more, such as spacecraft, rockets and robots. I discovered each of those inventions had a lot of room for improvement, so there’s no lack of opportunity!
What does your position as an associate technical fellow entail and what does a day in the life look like?
I contribute to the HLS program, which is exciting because it will bring the first woman and next man to the surface of the moon by 2024! SNC is a subcontractor to Dynetics and is leading the development of the crew module portion for the mission. The return of human space exploration is long-overdue and SNC has the best design for a moon lander. I also have the opportunity to work on projects that are future thinking, such as adapting Dream Chaser for future missions and customers, and helping develop SNC’s expertise in hypersonic vehicle technology. A day in my life always involves some time with feet up on the desk to facilitate out-of-the-box thinking.
What is the most meaningful or rewarding part of your work at SNC?
For me, the best thing about SNC is the spirit and imagination of a small company combined with the resources and technical depth of a large corporation. I’m proud of our many contributions to space exploration, and really look forward to the first orbital flight of Dream Chaser.
Why did you decide to apply for SNC’s Technical Fellowship Program, and how does it feel being in our first class of fellows?
The Technical Fellowship program appealed to me because of its emphasis on technical contributions rather than management skills. People can be useful, but technology doesn’t invent itself. Plus, I like J. R. R. Tolkien, so “Fellowship” has positive connotations. I’m honored and a bit intimidated to be counted among this first class. The other Fellows are really smart.
If you could travel to space with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
My wife Elizabeth. Alive, please. That would be the most fun.