As the last ten seconds of the launch counted down, UF alumnus, Alex Hyyti, experienced a whirlwind of emotions. Excitement, fear, and humility all combined as he realized the countless hours and time invested meant human spaceflight had returned to the United States of America.
Hyyti earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural and biological engineering (ABE) in 2013, followed by his master’s degree in biomedical engineering in 2014. Although both degrees were awarded by the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering (HWCoE), the ABE department is part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) allowing Hyyti to participate in many UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) activities and programs. As an undergraduate student, Hyyti was actively involved in the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, still remaining friends with several members.
Hyyti never imagined he would be a part of the historical space launch. As an avid runner and hospital volunteer, Hyyti originally dreamed of improving prosthetics for those who are disabled. Instead, he made his historical mark as one of the engineers responsible for the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch on May 30, 2020 carrying two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.
Hyyti’s path to becoming a launch engineer has been filled with many twists and turns, frequently changing but always guided by mentors. Hyyti changed his major several times, switching from civil engineering to marine sciences, before finding his home in the UF/IFAS agricultural and biological engineering department (ABE). Here he gained valuable mentors who he still keeps in contact with today, UF/IFAS faculty Dr. Richard Scholz and CALS IT Director Wendy Williams. Whether it was preparing for classes or giving advice on interviews, his mentors always kept him motivated to take the next big step.
Hyyti’s biggest piece of advice for students who also want to change the world is to be comfortable taking risks and stepping outside of comfort zones, the same advice he followed after graduating with his master’s degree. Hyyti took a leap of faith, leaving a career at a vaccine company for an internship at SpaceX to have a chance at changing the world. The engineering foundation Hyyti gained as a student allowed him the freedom to change his career path.
Since then, Hyyti has grown from an intern to a launch engineer, recently working on the SpaceX Falcon launch. As a launch engineer, Hyyti integrates automation into launch pads to ensure rapid and reliable launches.
The most exciting part of his role is, “figuring out how to take a complex set of systems, automate them, and watch them all seamlessly come together to launch a rocket,” said Hyyti.
However, the “coolest” part of his job is sitting as Launch Control on the day of launches, ensuring ground and vehicle systems are acceptable for flight, and being one of the last people to talk on the intercoms before liftoff.
With Hyyti, the gator nation truly is everywhere, even in space.