Employee Spotlight: SNC Advanced Development with Don Y.

June 17, 2020

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) recently won a contract for NASA’s Human Lander System (HLS), as a subcontractor to Dynetics, and the senior manager of programs on SNC’s Advanced Development (AD) team Don Y. played a critical role.

We sat down with Don to learn more about how SNC and HLS will help send the first female astronaut to the moon and how he hopes his job today will further space exploration for his young daughters.

What drew you to work at SNC? 
I joined SNC almost eight years ago because of the company’s several cutting-edge opportunities to work its satellite programs and the Dream Chaser program. Having transitioned from being an Air Force officer in space acquisitions to the Air Force Reserve, I found SNC as a perfect fit and a top rated company that fully supports the warfighter and my career as an Air Force reservist.  

You’re a senior manager of programs on SNC’s Advanced Development (AD) team. What does that team do and what’s a day in the life like?
The AD team takes existing SNC technology, products and programs and figures out other solutions so that technology could be used for different applications or other mission concepts.

Every day is different on the AD team. You have to think strategically about innovative ideas. I’m very lucky to be surrounded by extremely talented people that look 10 steps ahead to provide solutions that meet our customer’s needs. 

A typical day involves meeting with my project team, addressing customer requirements and figuring out how we can exceed and meet those requirements both ahead of schedule and below costs.         

You were heavily involved with writing the proposal for SNC’s bid on NASA’s Human Lander System (HLS). What is HLS and can you tell us what goes into writing a proposal like that?
HLS is a lunar lander for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the surface of the Moon by 2024.

Working the proposal was very exciting, rewarding and also very exhausting. Dynetics is the prime contractor and we’re the sub-contractor. Working with them was a great experience and I truly believe the synergy between the teams enabled our HLS award. Together, we developed an architecture, concept of operations and design that really differentiated our offering from our competitors. It is really the hard work of the proposal team across many dedicated individuals that made this proposal great. 

What also goes into writing a proposal like this is the many frequent flyer miles. I’ll never forget the trips with my teammates, specifically, my chief engineer, Bill. I don’t go anywhere without Bill.        

Now that we won the bid, what’s next?
If you ask me, what comes next is landing the first woman and next man on the moon!

In the next 10 months, our base contract with Dynetics requires our team to complete a preliminary design review with NASA. SNC is responsible for several important areas including design and integration of the crew module, delivery of the crew module mock up, system engineering for spacecraft integration with the Gateway (NASA’s outpost that will orbit the Moon), development of the mission control architecture that supports the launch and flight, and design of key mechanisms and structural components for the lander spacecraft.   

Why is a contract like HLS so important for SNC?
Being a part of HLS program is important for SNC for a number of reasons. I believe it leverages our International Space Station resupply vehicle experience, the work we have done on our lunar Gateway prototype, and our heritage satellite and space technology programs to provide innovative solutions to the moon. I know that through the HLS program, SNC will advance and prove science and technology that will enable space exploration to Mars and beyond.  

Why is space exploration so important to you?
My entire professional career has been in space. It’s important to me that the work we do advances technology to not only to know about space but to live in that domain. My daughters are seven and five and whenever they visit SNC or see the Dream Chaser model on my desk, they always ask when they’ll get to pilot Dream Chaser. I go to work every day so one day they can not only fly Dream Chaser, but explore space farther than anyone else ever has.


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