alexandra-longDetermined to finance her own senior year of college without taking loans, aerospace engineering major Alexandra Long saved every dollar from her spring and summer internships at SpaceX and the Air Force Research Laboratories. She knew she was cutting it close but on August 24, she received a well-deserved surprise: an email notifying her that she was one of three recipients for the Iridium NEXT Mission Team Scholarship.

Long was surprised. When she applied for the scholarship in May 2012, the application stated that she would be notified if she won by July 15. When the scholarship notification deadline passed, she assumed the scholarship committee passed her up.

“I was shocked and excited,” Long said. “I didn’t expect it because I should have heard back a month and a half earlier. This scholarship will be a huge help for me. It’s going to help with my tuition and housing.”

Iridium currently operates the world’s largest commercial satellite constellation. The company created the scholarship fund as part of their vision for the future. The Iridium NEXT Mission Team Scholarship program annually awards scholarships to the best and brightest aerospace engineering students in the world.

Students who had interned at Iridium or any partner company were eligible to apply for the scholarship. Partner companies included SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Corp., Thales Alenia Space, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, SEAKR and MDA.

The three 2012-13 winners were selected based on a set of academic and objective criteria including letters of recommendation, a biography and a technical essay. The screening process was completed by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

In her technical essay, Long focused on CubeSats. She incorporated her work in the Air Force Research Lab where she tested a free deploying solar array for a CubeSat with her work in the Texas Spacecraft Lab (TSL) under ASE/EM Professor Glenn Lightsey. During her two semesters in the TSL, she has worked on the structures team.

“I really enjoy the challenge of making all of the satellite’s components fit into a CubeSat,” Long said.

In addition to scholarship money, Long has become a part of the Iridium Next Mission Team. In this role, she will receive unique leadership development opportunities.

After graduating in May, Long plans to attend graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in aerospace engineering, with a focus on space structures or space systems.