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SpaceX founding member and rocket engineer Tom Mueller retires


Tom Mueller, one of the 2 founding employees of SpaceX and the brain behind the space exploration company’s rocket engines has announced his retirement today. He posted the retirement tweet and tagged CEO Elon Musk to which Musk replied with an appreciation for his services to the company.

Mueller is an unsung hero behind the success of SpaceX, the Draco and different iterations of the Merlin engines are his brainchild. His story of becoming the founder of SpaceX from a family background of loggers and logging truck drivers is a very interesting one. But he had the drive to invent and innovate in the field of engineering, especially developing large engines with huge thrusting power.

Tom Mueller with his creations (variants of Merlin engines) at the SpaceX HQ in Hawthorne, California.
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He graduated as a Mechanical Engineer from the University of Idaho in 1985, he explains that developing real rocket engines at SpaceX was the most daunting task of his life, he shared this experience in the following words:

When we formed SpaceX in 2002, I found myself with the most daunting engineering task of my life. As the vice president of propulsion, I had the responsibility of developing the Merlin rocket engine from a clean sheet. Booster class rocket engines are such an intense engineering problem that many believed that only governments could develop them. They have the highest energy density of any machine developed by man, releasing billions of watts of thermal energy in a small high-pressure combustion chamber. Everything I learned in engineering applied: Fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, chemistry, dynamics and vibration, stress and strain, materials and metallurgy, electrical systems, heat transfer and mechanical design.

Tom Mueller’s article on University of Idaho website.

In the later years of his career at SpaceX, he worked as the company’s Propulsion Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and for the last two years, he served as a part-time Senior Advisor to SpaceX.

Earlier this year, he shared several memories of how he started working on an amateur rocket in a friend’s garage in 1992. This experimental rocket, later on, became the basis for the name of SpaceX’s Big Falcon Rocket (BFR).

At 57, we might not have seen all that Mueller has to offer with the vast engineering knowledge and experience he has acquired. Let’s see what his next venture is in the field of rockets, space, and engines, stay tuned.

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By Iqtidar Ali

Iqtidar has been writing about Tesla, Elon Musk, and EVs for more than 3 years on, many of his articles have been republished on CleanTechnica and InsideEVs, maintains a healthy relationship with the Tesla community across the Social Media sphere. You can reach him on Twitter @IqtidarAlii