Photo credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A valuable lesson Kyle Noser learned as a student-athlete at the University of Iowa is to savor the opportunity of a career fair. For him, it turned into an out-of-this-world experience.
Noser, a member of the Hawkeye men’s swimming and diving team from 2010-14, is a manufacturing engineer working in the Space Systems group at Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) in Louisville, Colorado, not far from Denver. He is supporting the build of the Dream Chaser® spaceplane. Known as America’s Spaceplane®, Dream Chaser is a multi-mission space utility vehicle designed to transport crew and cargo to low-Earth orbit destinations like the International Space Station.
It started for Noser after attending an Iowa Engineering Career Fair.
“I found my first job with Rockwell Collins,” Noser said. “I met company employees at the career fair, which led to an interview and eventual hire.”
Noser, who grew up in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Iowa in 2014 and started at Rockwell Collins that summer. He and his fiancé, Rachel Hasler (also a University of Iowa graduate), wanted to move back to Colorado, so he landed with SNC, first as a contractor.
“When I started at Rockwell Collins, I was hired as a part of the Operations Rotation Development Program,” Noser said. “It was an amazing opportunity and I was able to work at three different sites in three different roles.”
After college, Noser wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. The Rockwell Collins rotation program was appealing, and he spent one year in Cedar Rapids as a mechanical engineer, one year in Irvine, California, as a quality engineer, and one year in Sterling, Virginia, as a manufacturing engineer. Noser stayed a second year in Sterling as a manufacturing manager.
During that time, he gained a love for aerospace, working on avionics, flight controls, cabin entertainment systems and flight simulators.
The past two years, Noser has been with SNC where he is responsible for several of the structural installations on the Dream Chaser. That includes reviewing the engineering design to ensure manufacturability, designing the tooling and ground support equipment required to build the vehicle, writing the work instructions for the technicians to follow during build and supporting the build on the manufacturing floor, and resolving unexpected issues that occur during production.
For Noser, the most rewarding part of his job is being part of a team that is building a vehicle that is going to launch into space, especially since it is the first one.
“I had the opportunity to spend time at Kennedy Space Center, where Dream Chaser will be launched,” Noser said. “It was amazing to see the history of American space flight. Being part of the development of a new spaceplane has been extremely challenging but very rewarding. It makes the long hours worth it.”
Noser spent most of his childhood in Colorado, but his parents grew up in Iowa City and attended West High School. His father went to the University of Iowa and Noser said he was “pretty much born to be a Hawkeye.”
"Very few athletes win every time they compete. Nothing goes perfectly at work, especially in a first-time build, so how you react to the small losses is as important as the small victories.”Kyle Noser
“I came back to Iowa City for games and went to Florida for bowl games,” he said. “Our dog is named after Drew Tate. When (swimming and diving head coach) Marc Long and the staff offered me a scholarship to swim, it was a dream come true.”
As a Hawkeye (he competed in the 200 IM, 400 IM and 200-breast), Noser’s career was highlighted when Iowa hosted the 2012 Big Ten Championships at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center.
“The entire team stepped up and we placed higher than we had in the several years prior,” he said. “Watching the team win the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays in our home pool was special.”
Noser has another connection to the university. His uncle is Kirk Speraw, assistant coach for the men’s basketball team. Speraw lettered for the Hawkeyes in 1978 and 1979.
“The Speraws were my second family while I was at the University of Iowa,” Noser said. “Kirk and Tracy would invite me over for Sunday dinners, then Kirk would complain that I was eating too much of his food.”
Noser said his uncle is still competitive and he has yet to win a match on the Speraw’s ping pong table.
Noser returns to campus at least once a year for a football or basketball game. He credits the University of Iowa Athletics Department for his career success. His first job was the result of meeting another Hawkeye student-athlete who worked for Rockwell Collins.
“Athletics translate to the professional world more than people think,” Noser said. “The time management, motivation, working toward a goal, teamwork and punctuality are all traits that are required in athletics that are also useful in the professional world. Very few athletes win every time they compete. Nothing goes perfectly at work, especially in a first-time build, so how you react to the small losses is as important as the small victories.”
The launch window for Dream Chaser opens in late 2021. It is Noser’s short term goal to watch the launch in person.
“Long term, I want to continue to develop my leadership skills and become a leader at SNC,” he said. “I would love to have a large impact on the company and help develop younger engineers to help their careers and make the company successful. I plan to stay within aerospace; I love being a part of the industry.”