York Prep alum Alexander “Sasha” Khazatsky (2017) graduated on the Headmaster’s List. Now he’s helping to build and launch a rocket.
In high school, Sasha always had STEM related side projects to research and work on in his free time. Where high school STEM classes almost always had their answers online, doing side projects forced Sasha to find answers elsewhere. It was up to him to educate himself as much as possible on the topic. He then drew his own conclusions and build upon them to create an answer. “It’s fun because there’s a whole new level of independence,” Sasha explains, “these side projects were a great way for me to not just explore interests, but to also become comfortable tackling questions without definite answers.”
That explains how and why Sasha finds himself to now be a college freshman building a rocket. As part of UC Berkley’s non-profit organization Space Enterprise, Sasha is one of many students working towards an uncommon goal. Formally, their mission is to reduce the cost of space access for student projects through individual launches and ride-sharing partnerships. To that end, they hope to become the first undergrads to fund, build, and launch a rocket like theirs. One that vastly reduces cost and complexity, increases safety, and opens up access to space.
“When I stumbled into the Space Enterprise info session, I couldn’t think of a more ideal organization to join,” Sasha explains. “Everything the members know is self-taught, especially since UC Berkeley doesn’t have an aerospace engineering program,” and Sasha is expected to show the same dedication. According to Sasha, the amount of effort, enthusiasm, and independence of the team members was just incredible. In addition to full-time coursework, members put in countless hours per week into making sure the launch is successful.
“Once I joined, I very quickly felt the familiar feeling of uncertainty and independence that I got from doing my side projects in high school,” Sasha recalls, “only on a much grander scale.” At times Sasha would come up with an idea about how to improve something. However, he often found his research resulted in, not a standard formula, but rather a 100 pages of NASA research. “But then again, the ambiguity is the best part of doing stuff like this. After all, it’s engineering.”
Currently, Sasha is in the design branch and tasked with a specific area of rocket design. In avionics, he spends almost 8 hours a week with his group and many more hours doing individual research. Berkeley has told SEB that if they raise $25,000, the school will help them reach their end goal of $250,000.
“The teamwork in this organization in unparalleled, yet it’s absolutely necessary if we’re going to get this rocket to work. Everyone I’ve met really wants to do everything they can to see Eureka-1 break the 100km Karman Line. It’s truly inspiring to see a single, unified goal in all these people you’re working with, and it’s exactly what I hoped to find in college.” If you would like to learn more about Space Enterprise at UC Berkeley, please see their website: https://www.berkeleyse.org. Also, there is an informational video on their crowd funding page: https://crowdfund.berkeley.edu/project/7450