LSU Mechanical Engineering Graduate to Build Rockets for Blue Origin
May 15, 2023
BATON ROUGE, LA – When LSU Mechanical Engineering senior Bailey Smoorenburg walks across the stage at graduation this Friday, she will not only feel proud of her accomplishments during her time at LSU but will also be thinking of all the packing she must do before making the long trip to the Pacific Northwest. In June, Smoorenburg is moving to Seattle to work for Blue Origin, an aerospace and space exploration company founded by Amazon pioneer Jeff Bezos. There, she will have rockets going into space quicker than an Amazon Prime delivery.
“I’m super excited to move up to Seattle,” Smoorenburg said. “It’s a cool city with different weather; definitely not as hot as Louisiana, which I’m grateful for. I’m also excited to go on hikes and visit all the national parks.”
Smoorenburg is also excited about working for Blue Origin, where she will be a manufacturing engineer in charge of the engine thrust chamber assembly. It’s a position that will more than likely have her working on the BE-7 engine for the company’s Blue Moon, a flexible lander delivering cargo or crew to the lunar surface.
“My job at Blue Origin will be similar to my internship duties with Relativity Space—creating new processes, helping technicians, and overseeing the design and build of these rocket engines,” she said.
Last summer, Smoorenburg interned at Relativity Space, an aerospace manufacturing company based in Long Beach, Calif., where she worked in the Vehicle Integration & Test group, focusing on stage one of the Terran 1 rocket.
“Terran 1 was the first 3D-printed rocket to ever launch into space,” Smoorenburg said. “It was Relativity Space’s proof-of-concept rocket and is the stepping stone for their next-generation rocket Terran R. One of the big projects I had with this company was working on revamping the precision-cleaning process for the rocket interior, for liquid oxygen and the fuel tanks, which if not done properly can cause the rocket to explode. They were also going to use this process for Terran R, so I improved upon pre-existing processes by obtaining new ground equipment, creating new methods for doing the washing, documenting that, and making work orders for technicians. It was definitely a full summer project.”
Though she kept busy at Relativity Space all summer, it wasn’t all work no play.
“Living in Long Beach was very fun,” she said. “The summer vibes were great, and there is definitely a lot to do in the Los Angeles area.”
The summer after her freshman year at LSU, Smoorenburg had an internship with NASA, which ended up being virtual due to the pandemic. Nonetheless, she learned a lot by working with the Safety & Mission Assurance group at Johnson Space Center in Houston and worked with engineers who were working on a new lunar space suit.
“I did drawing reviews for it,” she said. “I also worked with an engineer who was in charge of monitoring space walks on the International Space Station.”
Prior to coming to LSU, Smoorenburg attended Mandeville High School, where she was part of their FIRST Robotics team and had NASA mentors.
“NASA was a big sponsor of the program I was in,” she said. “So, I was always around aerospace. I grew up 45 minutes from Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and 30 minutes from the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.”
Remembering her positive experience with FIRST Robotics, Smoorenburg has been volunteering as a mentor for the Denham Springs High School FIRST Robotics team.
“I remember being on my FIRST Robotics team and having college-age mentors help us, so I wanted to give back and was in a good position to do so,” she said. “Not only am I helping these students build their culture and knowledge base, but I also get to build my own knowledge, and it’s a good outlet for me. Once I move to Seattle, I’ll find another team to mentor.”
Given her breadth of knowledge in aerospace already, Smoorenburg plans to stay in the field for a while.
“I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve done and everyone I’ve met,” she said. “Aerospace is my passion and very inspiring. My day-to-day work doesn’t get boring, but I still look forward to dipping my toes into a few different areas that I have yet work in.”
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Contact: Libby Haydel