Building race cars on Earth wasn’t enough; he’s working to 3D-print satellite parts in space
By Debra Werner|December 2019
Daniel “Deejay” Riley, 29; Archinaut deputy program manager at Made In Space
Deejay Riley grew up in Mountain View, California, working on cars with his father. No one was surprised when in college he joined San Jose State University’s Formula Society of Automotive Engineers to build race cars. Riley still loves cars, but after a college internship he was hired by Made In Space, the “off-Earth” manufacturing pioneer based in his hometown. The company is best known for remotely operating two 3D printers aboard the International Space Station. Riley helps manage development of Archinaut One, a satellite that in 2022 will attempt to 3D-print a pair of 10-meter-long solar arrays and install them on itself with a robotic arm.
Landing a job
Growing up, I spent a lot of time with Legos, building and creating things. When I got older, my dad and I rebuilt the engine in what ultimately became my first car. I enjoyed taking things apart and understanding how they worked and why. My dad was a pilot who owned a small airplane. I was always involved in helping him maintain and fly the plane. Coming out of high school, I didn’t know what type of engineering I wanted to do. I spent a couple of years at Foothill College [in Los Altos Hills, California] and left with my associate degree in physics and engineering. Then, I went to San Jose State where I earned a mechanical engineering degree with a focus in mechatronics [a combination of mechanical and electrical engineering and often robotics]. Toward the end of my college career, I realized I needed a more formal internship. When I saw an opportunity from Made In Space, it sounded really interesting. At Made In Space, I’ve gotten to do a lot of really amazing things in my 20s, including having functioning hardware on the International Space Station.
From technical work to budgeting
I’m usually involved with helping the engineers set technical direction, looking at data and making decisions. Like a typical deputy program manager, I also work with subcontractors, making sure that everybody has the information they need when they need it and managing the program’s schedule and budget. At the end of the day, my job is to help the program manager make sure the program is successful. The work we’re doing at Made In Space is setting the foundation and creating the technology that will help us expand and colonize our solar system and other planets in a unique and creative way. Archinaut is a good example because it is changing the way we think about manufacturing or interacting with satellites. The driving load for most satellites is the launch, but we can build the satellite in situ. That saves a lot of mass and ultimately cost.
Space in 2050
I think that we will be living and working in space on a larger scale than we currently are. I expect that you will see an entire section of the International Space Station or what comes after the space station as a manufacturing laboratory that is using the microgravity environment for manufacturing things to benefit Earth as well as in-space technologies. In parallel, we will be taking the beginning steps of our long-term presence in or on other planets such as the moon and Mars with the help of Made In Space technology.