Mount Si graduate designs satellites for Lockheed

— image credit:

When you watch satellite images on the Weather Channel or local newscasts, you are witnessing the work

of a Mount Si High School graduate.

Rob Osborne, who graduated in 1992, is a spacecraft test director

for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Sunnyvale, Calif.

His job entails putting together and testing satellites that monitor

global weather patterns and pick up emergency distress signals from ships

and aircraft.

The satellites are used for short- and long-term weather forecasting,

to monitor severe storms, for measuring temperature and humidity and for

providing data on soil moisture, polar ice coverage, ocean currents and

the ozone layer. The system works with two satellites that orbit the Earth

and provides us with data not less than six hours old.

The satellite program was started in 1978 by the National Oceanic

and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics

and Space Administration (NASA). It has produced 14 satellites, including

the most recent, the NOAA-L.

Osborne, 26, is currently working on the NOAA-N model, and

recently completed the NOAA-M, which will be launched next June. He also

worked on the NOAA-L and watched it take off on a Titan II rocket Sept. 21.

"It was like a dream come true, after all the years of encouraging

and supporting, it kind of culminated at that explosive moment,"

said Osborne's mother, Elena Montgomery, who witnessed the launch.

Montgomery is the treasurer for the city of North Bend.

Osborne said his job is important because the satellites cost about

$150 million, and they must be launched without a mistake. He added that

taxpayers' money would also be wasted if the satellite fails.

The best parts of his job, Osborne explained, is the level of

responsibility he is entrusted with, and launch days.

"You spend two, three years putting these things together, and

it's amazing to see it work," he said.

"My fingerprints are all over space right now — there's not a part of that

satellite that I didn't touch."

But this job is just one step toward Osborne's goal of becoming an


Next year, Osborne will apply for the astronaut program. If he isn't

accepted, he will go back to college for his doctorate.

"They get thousands of applicants, and they only take about 20," he

said, explaining that applicants are screened on physical qualifications,

education, experience, even hobbies. "It's

very difficult to get into, but so far, I can't see anything that will keep me back."

Montgomery noted that her son had always been inclined to break

free of Earth's gravity.

"He says he knew when he was 9- years-old that he wanted to be an

astronaut," she said, explaining that she could tell how talented he was by

the way he constructed things out of Legos and Erector sets. "He liked

to put anything together that he could get his hands on."

After graduating from Mount Si, Osborne moved on to college. He

received his bachelor's degree in aeronautical and astronautical

engineering in 1997 from the University of Washington, and his master's degree

in aeronautics and astronautics from Stanford. Lockheed Martin paid

for his master's degree.

He said the most difficult time of his life was when he was

attending Stanford and working full time at Lockheed Martin, sometimes

working graveyard shifts of 12 hours, then studying for midterms.

Osborne still sometimes works 14- to 16-hour days for two weeks in a

row while testing the satellites.

"He's just got a tremendous amount of drive,

I can't even keep up with him."

Elena Montgomery

mother of Rob Osborne

However, Osborne wasn't always this motivated. He described

himself as bored in elementary school because he was always quick to finish his

math problems and assignments, which left him less than challenged.

Both Osborne and his mother credit two Snoqualmie

Elementary schoolteachers with his turnaround.

"One of the things that I'm thankful for is that a couple of teachers

in the valley, Mr. Lee and Mrs. Dorland, nurtured his talent," Montgomery

said. She explained that they motivated him, understood his learning style and

his aptitude for science and math.

The teachers have since retired, but will never retire from

Osborne's memory.

And neither will Gene Clegg, physics and chemistry teacher

at Mount Si.

"He's a very upbeat inspirational type of guy," Osborne said. "One

of his favorite expressions was, `You guys are smarter than me, but I've

just been around longer.'"

Clegg, who has taught 33 years, remembers Osborne.

"He was a very bright student," Clegg said. "He was one of the

students who was willing to get his feet wet and challenge answers. I knew

he was going to be a leader."

Osborne's advice for students is to select a career path in life and go

to college.

"Choose something that you want to do. Choose anything, even

now. Choose and figure out what steps you need to take to do it," he said.

"You're going to have to do something every day, so you might as well like it.

It doesn't have to be a lifetime decision. Whatever sounds best to you — do

it. You can always change your mind later."

"Oh, and have fun, too. That's very important," he added. "The key is

to be happy and have fun."

Hang-gliding, hunting, fishing, camping and scuba diving are the

activities Osborne prefers to balance his life.

"You can't get too locked into one thing or you get bored," he said.

Another way Osborne balances his life is to spend time with his

dog, Lakota, which is part German Shepherd, wolf and husky. He also stays

in touch with his UW buddies and with his sister, Sara, who is a fellow

Mount Si and UW graduate and is studying law in Washington, DC.

Although he has inspirational phrases posted around his

office, Osborne offered his own words to Valley students on how to be


"Believe that you can do what you want to do," he said. "It doesn't

matter where you're from or what you've done in the past, you can figure

out how to do it. Don't listen to what they say if they say you can't do it."

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