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December 2, 1998
QuestChat with Ken Schrock

Flight Test/Project/Instrumentation/Telemetry, Data Communication Engineer
Dallas, TX


[ Sandy/NASAChatHost - 5 - 09:58:37 ]
RE: [Deb-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] Ypsilanti COPE is standing by ready to begin our chat in a few minutes.
Welcome Ypsilanti COPE! We'll begin in just another couple of minutes...

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost - 6 - 10:01:08 ]
Today we are joined by a person of many talents and responsibilities. Ken Schrock wears many hats: flight test/project/instrumentation/telemetry and data communication engineer! And he does all of this from a field site at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport as part of research and development of Air Traffic Management. Welcome Ken!

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 7 - 10:03:35 ]
RE: [Sandy/NASAChatHost] Welcome Ypsilanti COPE! We'll begin in just another couple of minutes...
Hello Ypsilanti COPE. Do you have any questions?

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 10 - 10:05:54 ]
RE: [Nick-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] What was it like to ride in the Huey?
It was suprisingly smooth, like an elevator. If I didn't have my head hanging out the window, I almost wouldn't have believed we were airborne. It was really great trip.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 12 - 10:07:44 ]
RE: [Dane-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] What kind of work did you perform on the VC-25 (Air Force One)?
I was working on the pilot's flight manual. The biggest work I did was clean up a messy database of where all the circuit breakers were. I guess that's important if the President pops a breaker on his coffee pot. Some people get really cranky if they dont get their coffee ;-)

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 14 - 10:10:06 ]
RE: [Deb-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] What are the primary changes being made in air traffic control management systems?
We (NASA/FAA) are trying to automate some of the processes that the controllers do in their head now. If American Airlines flights from Wichita Kansas always come in from the North and land on runway 17 Left, CTAS would give that runway as a suggestion and put it in the sequence for that runway.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 16 - 10:12:07 ]
RE: [Nick-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] Do you ever get nervous when you're doing your job?
The most nervous I get on this job is when I'm down in the basement where the main computers are feeding 300 some controllers displays, and I need to check a computer's connection. Some connections are "finicky" enough that just jiggling them causes them to quit working. I haven't caused any problems yet.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 19 - 10:14:25 ]
RE: [Dane-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] Have you ever dreamed of flying in space?
That's what started me on this path. I remember watching Neal Armstrong walk on the moon. It took a long time to get this far, but if you keep at it, and don't give up, you can do it too. My dream now is to be the Chief Engineer for the Manned Mars mission launcher. Are you going to be part of the flight crew?

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 21 - 10:16:51 ]
RE: [Deb-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] What are the most rewarding aspects of your job? The most challenging?
The biggest reward is when you turn a new computer or connection over to the user and it works. Sometimes all I get is a, "thanks Ken" and they're face down working on the new system. The challenging part is when the reason you can't get a system connected because you didn't say, "mother may I' to the right person, and they won't let you connect or test.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 23 - 10:18:42 ]
RE: [Nick-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] Have you ever felt like you have messed up a job you've had?
Everyone makes mistakes on the job. What's important is that you learn from them and move on. I've ordered the wrong part, or made a mistake in programming that wasn't obvious until 20 people were standing there watching the output. I apoligized and tried to fix it or got the new part ordered.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 25 - 10:20:20 ]
RE: [Dane-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] Do you know any of the people at Ames?
I've been on travel to Ames 3 or 4 times. Most of the people I've met have been in my same division, or people I had to interface with in finance or personnel. If you want to know if I know someone, go ahead and ask.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 27 - 10:22:23 ]
RE: [Nick-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] How long do you have to go to college to have a job like yours?
Most colleges lay out Aerospace Engineering degrees to be done in 4 years, but that's 18 hours a semester of pretty intense stuff. Personally it took me 8 years. Again, don't get discouraged, and keep after it. You can do it.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 29 - 10:25:39 ]
RE: [Deb-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] What advice would you give to young people who are struggling to get back on track academically?
I hope I don't start sounding like a broken record, or skipped CD track to modernize, but my advise is, 'don't give up'. I took college algebra, flight dynamics I, and aerspace structures twice each, and Chemistry I three times. It may be hard to see the perspective, but what you learn and can apply is most important. I know Chem I better than anyone else in the class that only took it once :-)

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 32 - 10:29:20 ]
RE: [Dane-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] Have you ever seen an aircraft tested in the wind tunnels?
I've done testing in wind tunnels. I got to test one of the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or flying robots I worked on for the Navy at Wichita State University, where I had graduated from 6 months before. We did both data analysis (lift, drag and pitch) and flow visualization. For flow visualization we taped yarn pieces all over the vehicle and video'ed which way they went.

[ Deb-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE - 33 - 10:31:13 ]
Your response to the question about how to recover from academic hard times is excellent. I'm sitting here with at least one person who seems to think that people are just born knowing how to do everything at their job perfectly. It is very refreshing to hear that people struggle along the way and still find success and satisfaction.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 34 - 10:31:38 ]
RE: [Nick-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] What kind of work did you do on the X-33 and what does the X-33 do?
The X-33 is a reusable launch vehicle, or rocket that you use over and over, like most of the space shuttle. Rockets like Titans and Deltas that cost 10s of millions of dollars are only used once and are left to burn up on re-entry. I designed the system to send the messages from the ground computers up to the X-33, which flys by computers on board and the uplink signals.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 35 - 10:35:17 ]
RE: [Dane-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] How was the Range Flight Safety Termination aerodynamic model relate Pathfinder? And how does the model fly with solar power?
Uninhabited vehicles always fly with a Flight Termination System on board. This is a way to destroy the vehicle so it doesn't go out of control and land on someone. Pathfinder's Flight Termination System killed the engines and put a parachute out of one of the wing tips which made it spin down like a top. The solar panels change energy from the sun into electricity which is used to turn the electric motors and/or charge batteries.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 37 - 10:39:30 ]
RE: [Nick-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] I read you said the Blackbird is cool. Why do you think so?
The blackbird was designed in the late '50s and can go Mach 3.2 (at least)and is still the fastest non-rocket plane that I know of. Did you know that Marta Bonn Meyer, one of the Experiment Controllers for Dryden's SR-71 is a woman? This isn't a men's only game. Do you know how fast Mach3.2 is in miles per hour?

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost - 39 - 10:43:19 ]
EVERYONE: There're about 15 minutes left in our chat with Ken. You're doing a great job with your questions! Ken can probably answer about 10 more before he has to go back to work.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 41 - 10:45:05 ]
RE: [Deb-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] How do you see your field changing over the next ten years? Are you having to re-train as you go?
Right now I'm working through a self tutorial to learn the C programming language and I am taking a class at the University of Texas at Arlington called Astronautics I. Computers have been doubling in main CPU capacity (based on number of transistors) every 18 months for the last decade. For laughs you can look at old computer magazines and read where people say, "why would you ever need more than 64 kilobytes (64,000) of memory". The machine I'm typing this on has 128 megabytes (128,000,000) of memory. The thing to remember is that computers and networks are not magic. If you put the time and effort in, you can figure them out. Pretty soon you'll be the local guru, or expert.

[ NickDaneandDeb-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE - 42 - 10:49:25 ]
Thank you very much for your time and for your thoughtful responses. We're going to have to sign off soon. We have all had a great time.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 43 - 10:50:08 ]
RE: [Nick-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] I think that Mach 3.2 is about 1920 mph. What kind of engines does the blackbird have?
Good answer on the speed. It was kind of a trick question. Mach number is the ratio of speed to the speed of sound, which changes with altitude. The blackbird typically flies at about 80,000 feet. The engines are Pratt and Whitney J59 or J79. The trick is that above a certain speed they bypass the normal compressor section because the ram air speed compresses the air enough for the combustion chambers. Another cool thing is that 80% of the thrust comes from the inlet, not the exhaust,at high mach. http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/PAO/PAIS/HTML/FS-030-DFRC.html is a good source for more data.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 44 - 10:53:18 ]
RE: [Deb-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] Did you ever have any qualms about doing work on missles?
Yes, I did have reservations, which is why I'm glad to now work for NASA. I had some good discussions with some friends of similar religious convictions on just this topic. One thing to think is that we live in a country that defends freedom and perhaps the weapons I've worked on will help others have freedom.

[ KenSchrock/DFRC - 45 - 10:56:05 ]
RE: [NickDaneandDeb-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE] Thank you very much for your time and for your thoughtful responses. We're going to have to sign off soon. We have all had a great time.
I enjoyed our chat too. I'll look forward to the next time we can get together. If you have any other questions you can get them to me through: quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/questions/ask.html I hope this is an incentive to you not to give up on yourself. Maybe in a few years, you'll be the person on this side of the chat :-)

[ DebDaneNick-Mrs.Regal/YpsilantiCOPE - 46 - 10:57:06 ]
Those are welcome thoughts for us!! Thank you!

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost - 47 - 11:01:09 ]
EVERYONE: Be sure to let the Quest Team know how we did on the chat and fill out the short survey form at: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys

[ Sandy/NASAChatHost - 48 - 11:03:15 ]
Ken is excited to chat with you again and has set aside Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 10 a.m., PST to chat again. Mark your calendars and registration will begin in early January.

 
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