Avionics Design Engineer Melony Mahaarachchi’s work at SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies) in Hawthorne, California sees her constantly travelling back and forth between the test launch sites in Texas and Cape Canaveral, Florida.
For the athlete from Girls’ High School, Mount Lavinia and Holy Family Convent, Colombo 4, who went on to become a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineer breaking into the avionics (aviation electronics) system field was a great opportunity, one she seized the moment it came in her way. She is now one of the avionics design engineers working on the Falcon-9 spacecraft, Dragon capsule and Grasshopper launch vehicle (vertical take-off vertical landing). She had the privilege of being part of the design team of world’s first fully reusable launch vehicles, and Dragon, the first commercial cargo shuttle which carries cargo and astronauts back and forth to the International Space Station (ISS).
Currently, she is working as a design engineer of the next generation Merlin-1 rocket engine and Merlin-1 vacuum engine, which will thrust Falcon 9, v1.1 rocket. She graduated from the prestigious Henry Samuali School of Engineering at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as an Aerospace Engineer and is currently pursuing her MS degree in Manufacturing and Design in Electromechanical Systems Engineering at UCLA. Beginning of next year she will be transferring her MS program to Stanford University.
While at UCLA she was a student researcher at NASA-Jet propulsion laboratory- Los Angeles for many years. She was an honoree of the prestigious American Society of Women Engineers in 2008 for outstanding scholastic achievement and dedication, one of only three students from California, Nevada and Arizona to be so chosen. It was also the first time a Sri Lankan was honored by the Society of Women Engineers. After graduation she joined L-3 Communications, Electron Technologies (a former Boeing company and a Fortune 100 company) located in Los Angeles, California, as a Mechanical Engineer. L-3 ETI is the largest producer of Xenon Ion Propulsion Thrusters commonly known as XIPS to propel satellites in low orbital earth.
When she graduated as an Aerospace engineer, she thought she achieved her ultimate dream. Dragon capsule taking some of her creations to the International Space Station was something she never dreamed or even thought remotely was possible for a Sri Lankan. She thinks the dreams are not impossible, it is how we capture the opportunities and make it to our advantage.