Harlingen United Launch Alliance aviation

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – South Texas and the solar system are closer than you think.

As space shuttles inspired children of the 1980s, today’s space capsules and reusable rockets are motivating a new generation to dream galactic.

“My students are going to be the technicians the aerospace world is hiring,” said Leo Guajardo, lead instructor in Texas State Technical College’s Aviation Maintenance program in Harlingen.

United Launch Alliance on Airport Drive is next door to Valley International Airport and across the street from TSTC. The company has operated in its 300,000-square-foot facility since 1990, producing adapters, engine sections and payload fairings for the Atlas V launch vehicle. The company also has locations in Alabama and Colorado, with launches taking place in California and Florida.

Guajardo said ULA has been a good neighbor to TSTC, and their long relationship has proved valuable. He said in the past TSTC’s Aviation Maintenance students have acquired work experience at ULA as they took classes.

“It is a leg into the aerospace industry, and it is extremely valuable,” Guajardo said.

Heather McFarland, ULA’s communications specialist in strategic communications, said the company is always seeking technicians who have skills in assembly, computer numerical controlled machine operations, crane operations and welding. TSTC fits the company’s mission of finding the best employees with a strong technical education.

“We build great teams and partners to achieve legendary results,” she said.

ULA has given financial gifts in the past to TSTC, including $40,000 in 2015 for the campus Challenger Learning Center’s planetarium. 

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Aircraft Airframe Technology and an Aircraft Airframe Technician certificate of completion. Also offered is an Associate of Applied Science degree in Aircraft Powerplant Technology and an Aircraft Powerplant Technology certificate.

Hands-on work is key to students learning how to work within Federal Aviation Administration guidelines.

“Our projects are preparing students for that (aerospace) world within the curriculum that exists,” Guajardo said. “A lot of the composite work we do is similar to the old foam and ceramic-type panels on the NASA space shuttles.”

Registration continues for the fall semester, with scholarships available. For more information, go to tstc.edu.

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