From Cardinal to Blue, From the Perspective of a Contrarian Systems Engineer
450 Durand Building
Abstract: Adam Wuerl (M.S., 2006), will talk about his path from Stanford to Blue Origin and his experience working on launch vehicles, satellites, and missile defense programs. He’ll give a brief overview of some of the things Blue Origin is working on now (hopefully not breaking any news, sorry!), with a particular focus on early-stage programs born out of the Advanced Concepts group he led from 2017 until 2021. Also sprinkled in are observations on the discipline of systems engineering: at a 20-person company building its first space-flight hardware to the country’s largest defense contractor; from small study contracts to billion-dollar programs; and from a “new space” minimum viable product approach to a customer only interested in 100% Mission Success. Expect some contrarian takes, so he can stay on-brand.
Biography: Adam Wuerl is the System Architect for a reusable space transportation program in Blue Origin’s Advanced Development Programs business unit. Before starting in this role, he was Blue’s Director of Advanced Concepts and Strategy, which formulated concepts for the Blue Moon lunar lander, the Orbital Reef space station, and several other undisclosed but active programs. Advanced Concepts is responsible for the ideation and maturation of new launch systems, payloads, and in-space vehicles that will help enable a future where millions of people are living and working in space.
Adam’s background is in Program Management and Systems Engineering, especially system-level architecture and design, modeling and simulation, and analysis. He has experience across the entire product lifecycle—from concept formulation to on-orbit operations—and has worked on launch vehicle, planetary lander, satellite, and missile defense programs for private- and venture-funded commercial companies, and for clients in the Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency, and NASA.
Prior to joining Blue Origin in 2017, Adam spent five years at Spaceflight Industries (formally Andrews Space). He was the Program Manager for Spaceflight’s first satellite (a 50 kg, 3-axis controlled, Earth-imaging satellite) — from program kick-off through successful launch in 2016. He also led Spaceflight’s Systems Engineering team, which supported both satellite design and launch campaigns such as the SSO-A dedicated-rideshare mission.
Prior to Spaceflight, Adam spent nine years at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Sunnyvale, CA and Hunstville, AL. While at LM SSC, he was the Chief Engineer for System Build 2.0 of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Weapon System, which was dedicated to improving weapon system performance in post-intercept debris environments. Adam was the THAAD subject matter expert for several advanced concepts, including debris mitigation and Launch-on-Network capability. Also at LM, Adam was the Payload Design and Integration lead for the Multiple Kill Vehicle program, where he was responsible for overall payload balancing, conceptual design, and system-level trade studies. He also worked in the (classified) Special Programs line-of-business on the requirements and verification team.
Adam holds a Masters of Science degree from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Washington, both in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering.
Host: Prof. Debbie G. Senesky, email@example.com