When Marion native Kevin Hord graduated from Marion Technical College in 2005, he had no idea that his associate’s degree in structural design would lead him to working on the fuel system for the Falcon 9 rocket that SpaceX just successfully launched and landed, potentially changing the way American astronauts get to space.
“Knowing that I had something to do with a rocket launch feels pretty amazing,” Hord said. “I had the typical childhood dreams of being a famous athlete or maybe an astronaut, but I didn’t think I would ever actually have something to do with launching rockets.”
PHPK Technologies, with offices in Columbus, has multiple projects for SpaceX. On the Falcon 9 rocket, Hord helped design the routing of the cryogenic piping to carry liquid oxygen (LOX) to the rocket for launch, as well as a pressurized jacket pipe to keep the oxygen liquid instead of , as Hord described it, “one big ball of frost.”
The rocket takes liquid oxygen as a propellant to get off the ground and then keep it going once it is out of the atmosphere, Hord explained. “The rocket takes its own liquid oxygen because there is no oxygen in space.”
Hord explains, “The big sphere in the bottom left of this picture is the 120,000-gallon tank. It’s hard to tell, but there is piping running from the sphere, up the little hill, into the scaffolding looking thing called a ‘Strongback’ attached to the rocket. The four towers surrounding the rocket are actually just giant lightning rods.”
As a mechanical designer, Hord will continue supporting PHPK’s load of projects for SpaceX. They have facilities in Cape Canaveral, FL, Hawthorne, CA, and Brownsville, TX. PHPK also does work for many other national research laboratories, rocket facilities, universities and government agencies.
Hord, now a Delaware resident, wouldn’t be at PHPK without deciding to attend MTC after graduating from River Valley High School in Marion.
“MTC provided me with a good education, with up-to-date technology, that I was able to use right away after graduating,” Hord stated.
For local high school students, Hord encourages them to try the STEM fields and take advantage of local resources.
“Marion has such an amazing opportunity for technology education with RAMTEC, Tri-Rivers and MTC. Don’t waste your opportunity by not recognizing what’s in your own backyard. Use these options, and who knows how far it will take you,” Hord stated.
Attached photo: Kevin Hord, courtesy of Kevin Hord.
Photo of rocket: from SpaceX Facebook page.