Category Archives: Industry Tours

Aerospace Dream Tour Day 5: Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne & Beaches

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne

Our first tour of the day starts with Rocketdyne. We started with a tour of their Canoga Park facility and learned about all of Rocketdyne's heritage and previous projects. Next we traveled a few miles down the road to Rocketdyne's de Soto facility. Here we got a first hand look of the shop floor, where all the magic happens.

Beach Time!

Eventually I’ll have some time and these posts will get the proper attention they deserve, but I must keep trucking with the tours. Today is our final tour. We will be at Edwards AFB all day. Keep checking out the twitter feed for updates!



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Aerospace Dream Tour Day 4: Skunk Works & Scaled Composites

Lockheed Martin Skunk Works

We were able to get down and dirty with the new hybrid blimp project at ADP. The Lockheed Martin P-791 is an experimental aerostatic/aerodynamic hybrid airship developed by Lockheed Martin corporation. The first flight of the P-791 was on 31 January 2006 at the company's flight test facility on the Palmdale Air Force Plant 42. It has a unique tri-hull shape, with disk-shaped cushions on the bottom for landing. As a hybrid airship, part of the weight of the craft and its payload are supported by aerostatic (buoyant) lift and the remainder is supported by aerodynamic lift. The combination of aerodynamic and aerostatic lift is an attempt to benefit from both the high speed of aerodynamic craft and the lifting capacity of aerostatic craft.

The Lockheed Martin X-55 Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft (ACCA) is an experimental twin jet engined transport aircraft which might demonstrate new cargo-carrier capabilities using advanced composites. A project of the United States Air Force's Air Force Research Laboratory, it was built by the international aerospace company Lockheed Martin, at its Advanced Development Programs (Skunk Works) facility in Palmdale, California.


Scaled Composites


Our visit to Scaled Composites in Mohave, CA was unlike any other. We were able to get up close and personal with a number of projects here. You can really see the passion in each of their engineers. Loved seeing their newly aquired 747, which will be used for the new Stratoluanch project.

The Xprize

The group just outside of the Scaled Composites facility.

We want to sincerely thank both Lockheed Martin and Scaled Composites for two of the best tours of our trip to SoCal. More to report when time permits.

Time to finish my coffee and head to the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne facility. We’re meeting right outside an F-1 rocket!! Life sure is great!


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Aerospace Dream Tour: Day 3 Northrop Grumman & SpaceX

After a fun evening out with some SpaceX alumni last night, we were extremely excited to start the day. Todays tours involved Northrop Grumman & SpaceX.

Northrop Grumman

The tour of Northrop was very informative. We got a great tour of their composites facility. Composites are the future of aerospace, so we were extremely happy to learn about their fabrication process.

Below you can see the business end of the Super Hornet. Being partial to propulsion, I was in pure heaven seeing the production line for the aft section of the F/A-18E. Loved seeing the inlets and nozzle for this aircraft!

We ended our tour at the final assembly location of the F/A-18 aft-section. Here's a picture of the final assembly that we were able to see today. Once they're finished, these babies get put on a flat-bed truck and shipped to the Boeing facility in St. Louis.

The University of Michigan group in front of Northrop Grumman's facility in El Segundo, CA.


This tour was simply AMAZING!! We got a great tour of the factory floor. Lots of capsules and rocket engines!

Some of the pieces inside the shop.

A look inside the SpaceX production line.

The group inside the SpaceX lobby. What a phenomenal tour! Thanks for the awesome Vanilla/Cappuccino swirl frozen yogurt. It was AMAZING!

Tomorrow’s tours are the best yet!! We will be starting early at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. We will follow this up in the afternoon with a lengthy tour of Scaled Composites. Stay tuned and please comment if you have any questions regarding the tours we’ve done so far!

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Aerospace Dream Tour: Day 2 JPL & Boeing

Entrance to JPL

The 2nd day of the Aerospace Dream Tour with 16 University of Michigan AIAA members took place today. Apparently we brought the terrible weather with us, because it rained all day and it was quite chilly. Hopefully we can get back to some sun and warmth for the rest of the week.

Enough about the weather! We have some good ol’ fashioned aerospace touring to do! The Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Boeing’s C-17 Globemaster III are on the agenda!!


We arrived in Pasadena an hour early (didn’t want to chance the rush hour traffic). Now the fun begins:

University of Michigan group picture in front of JPL

The group enjoying the thermal imaging system at JPL

Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). Kind of reminds me of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit

Engineer at JPL using the iHandy app on his iPhone to find the inclination of the MSL. Apple should really make a commercial about this. Sorry Droid users 🙂

Here is the area they always show on the Mars Rover documentaries. This area also tracks the satellites that JPL has sent out. This was great to see!

Notice the cloudy weather we got to experience in SoCal. I've been told that it hasn't rained orA few of the guys checking out an old ion thruster that was made at JPL.

A JPL employee giving a great explanation about the electric propulsion thrusters that they are working on. We also toured many of JPL's vacuum chambers, such as the green one pictured.

even been cloudy in over three months here. What happened ?!?!

Boeing C-17 Globemaster III Facility

We had a great tour of the C-17 production line. What an amazing airplane and impressive facility.

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Aerospace Dream Tour: Day 1

The Start

The drive from Ann Arbor to Chicago’s O’Hare airport wasn’t without its trials. Our four-car motorcade started the journey at 12PM EST. After about an hour we indulged in some Culver’s Butter Burgers! Great choice for sure!! Smooth so far…

Parking in Downtown Chicago??

We proceeded to program our GPS units to “The Parking Spot” by the airport. Somehow the address we selected led us to downtown Chicago! So maybe we took a slight detour, but for the many Chicago first-timers, the experience was well worth our miscalculations. Did I mention we gave ourselves eight hours to get from Ann Arbor to Chicago (usually a 4.5 hour drive)?  We arrived with plenty of time to spare, but I sure am glad we took the precaution.

The Parking Spot

After some searching, we finally stumbled across our parking destination. Of course this was no easy task. “The Parking Spot” isn’t really called the parking spot, but instead went by some other name, which was completely unrelated. We scrambled to type in the mystery parking company into our cell phones to find “The Parking Spot” logo at the bottom of the webpage.  So we handed our keys to the nice gentleman and took our ticket. Let me add that it’s kind of scary knowing that we literally gave them our vehicles and in return we have a piece of paper in our possession. No other information taken… I’m sure we’re all praying that our cars will be there when we get back.

The Terminal

Due to the nature of the trip and size of the airplanes we split up our group between American Airlines & United Airlines. My group flying American, made it past security with the usual hassle. Only one of our bags got the extra search. Luckily none of us got the “extra” search, so we can’t complain too much. After a brief dinner at the terminal‘s “Chilis,” we were all set to wait for our flight to board.

This is where we are so far in our journey. I write this to you from over 31,000ft in the air. Should be arriving at LAX by 10:20pm PST. Check our flight route here.

 JPL and Boeing tours are on the agenda for tomorrow. Keep checking back for more updates!

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