‘One of the Craziest Experiences of My Life.’ Inside this Northeastern Student’s Co-op with NASA

Electrical engineering student Jonah Saunders, E’24, completed a co-op at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, gaining valuable experience and contributing to their ongoing projects in space exploration.

This article originally appeared on Northeastern Global News. It was published by Ian Thomsen. Main photo: The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft docks with the International Space Station. NASA Photo

Jonah Saunders grew up aiming to become an electrical engineer. He didn’t imagine the work would exceed his dreams.

On co-op as an electrical engineering intern at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Saunders routinely delivers payloads to the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft before it takes off for delivery to the International Space Station.

“It is one of the craziest experiences of my life,” says Saunders, who will be graduating from Northeastern in 2025. “Knowing it’s going to be in space at some point soon—I feel so lucky to be involved with that.”

headshot of Jonah Saunders

“This has really cemented what I want to do,” Jonah Saunders says of NASA co-op. Photo by NASA.

At the launchpad, Saunders delivers the cargo via an elevator that carries him to the Dragon on top of the Falcon 9 rocket. The ground-floor button of the elevator panel reads EARTH; the top floor is marked SPACE.

“It’s pretty windy up there,” Saunders says of the upper deck where the crew boards the spacecraft.

Dragon spacecraft have made more than 20 roundtrips to the International Space Station since 2012. Each can carry more than 13,000 pounds of equipment and supplies per trip.

“Your jaw just drops because you’ve seen this rocket so many times online,” says Saunders, whose office window provides a view of the launchpad. “It takes up your entire view as you look up. It just keeps on going.”

Saunders recalls dreaming of becoming an electrical engineer as far back as elementary school, based in part on insight from his father’s career.

“My dad is a patent attorney for a big firm in Boston and he works a lot with novel technology,” Saunders says. “I really want to be an inventor—that’s what I’ve been saying my entire life. I went into electrical engineering because it would allow me to design new technologies and help in their development.”

His first co-op was with Desktop Metal near Boston, where his mentor was Timur Starobinets, a senior electrical engineer from Saunders’ hometown of Needham, Massachusetts, who graduated from Northeastern before working at SpaceX as an avionics engineer.

Read full story at Northeastern Global News.

Related Departments:Electrical & Computer Engineering