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Meet: Michael Ciannilli

Photo of Mike Ciannilli

Test Project Engineer
NASA Kennedy Space Center

My Journals
Chat and Webcast Archives

Who I Am

Hi! My name is Mike Ciannilli and I would like to welcome you to the Kennedy Space Center on the Internet. I appreciate your interest in the space program and I look forward to hearing from you and answering any questions about the Space Shuttle Program you might have.

I am a test project engineer at the Kennedy Space Center. I work for the United Space Alliance which is the prime contractor of the shuttle program. The role of the United Space Alliance is to manage the entire Space Shuttle Program for NASA. This involves all the phases of the program. Here at the Kennedy Space Center we process the shuttle from landing to launch. To carry this out we have a team of thousands of very talented scientists, engineers, and technicians. Within this team, we are grouped into several more specialized departments.

What I Do

I began my career in the Space Shuttle Program as a systems engineer. I was a member of the Fuel Cells Engineering Department. More specifically I worked in the Fuel Cells Orbiter Group. In my journal "Fuel Cells - A Day in the Life," you can learn more about what fuel cells is all about.

Mike in the firing roomCurrently, I am working as a test project engineer. You can learn more about my responsibilities in this group by taking a look at my journal "TPE: A New Focus." The basic difference between these two positions is that of focus. In fuel cells, I concentrated on one particular orbiter system. In Test Project Engineering, also known as Integration, I focus more broadly on all of the Orbiter systems along with the full compliment of systems on the external tank and solid rocket boosters. I guess you could say I went from a "nuts and bolts" type of guy to a "big picture" kinda guy.

My Career Journey

Heading to the Cape

After graduating from college, I hoped to finally realize my lifelong goal. However, sometimes life doesn't exactly go the way you plan. Just prior to getting out of school, NASA was placed under a hiring freeze that ended up lasting over 5 1/2 years. During that time I took positions that I felt would improve and add to my engineering skills. Life can be frustrating and various turns can take you on the long way to where you want to go sometimes. However, never stop believing in your dreams and you will get to where you want to go. For me, my elusive dream finally did come true.

Personal Information

The Early Years

I grew up in a town called Brewerton, just outside of Syracuse in Upstate New York. Summers were spent on the lake and winters were spent in the snow, lots of snow!

My dream has always been to become a part of America's space program. To be honest, I don't know how my interest in it started, but I do remember running home from playing up the street to watch the latest launch when I was five years old. Since then my life has been focused in the direction of the space program. The next twelve years were spent entering science fairs, majoring in math and science in high school, and learning all I could about the Space Shuttle Program.

The College Years

Convinced of my goal, I majored in Space Science at the Florida Institute Of Technology (F. I. T.) in Melbourne, Florida. To gain working experience while at F. I. T., I participated in an internship program with Pan Am World Services at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. I learned many valuable things about the "real world" of engineering that has helped me a lot in my career.

At F.I.T. I also participated in several extracurricular activities and organizations. I held leadership roles in several organizations, including two terms as president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics at FIT. These activities provided me with a great deal of invaluable experience in many areas.


When I am not at the Cape, I like to spend time with my family (I am fortunate to have a great mom, dad and sister) and do some sports like tennis, swimming and boating. However, when the sun is shining bright and the waves are breaking just right, I'll probably be heading to the beach to go surfing.

Likes About Career

Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that I am actually working on the Launch Team for the Space Shuttle. IT IS AWESOME!! Everyday is different and presents new challenges.

We are constantly getting the stars of the show: Columbia, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour ready for launch. And the launch itself, well ...... that's an experience that is just too incredible to put into words.


I would recommend to you, no matter what career you choose, to participate in some form of internship program. It will be worth a lot more than you may think. Find activities outside of your schoolwork that you have an interest in, and participate. Social clubs, organizations and sports are all great ideas.

Archived Chats and Webcasts


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