Every time a rocket blasts off in Florida, 2nd Lt. Daniel Egert ’19 is doing his job. As a space operations officer assigned to the 45th Range Squadron at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Egert is part of a team that helps to ensure a successful liftoff.
He, along with 2nd Lt. Christopher Scofield ’19, anticipate being the first two Syracuse University alumni in the newly established U.S. Space Force.
Cape Canaveral is an important part of American space exploration, supporting all launch operations on the East Coast for the Department of Defense, NASA and private space corporations such as SpaceX. Officers like Egert provide behind-the-scenes support. For example, when the European Space Agency’s $1.5 billion Solar Orbiter took off on Feb. 9, 2020, Egert monitored outside radio frequencies. In any given launch he is assigned a variety of roles, like making sure there aren’t boats nearby or monitoring airspace to keep planes clear.
For Egert, there is always tremendous attention to detail, but the manned SpaceX launch on May 30, 2020, brought an enhanced sense of responsibility. “It’s impossible not to be aware of the importance of the mission and the crew on board, and that brings a heightened awareness to every action,” says Egert, who was aboard a U.S. Coast Guard ship off the coast of Cape Canaveral, focusing on launch safety and security. The Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched American astronauts into orbit for the first time since 2011, a historic accomplishment that signals a new era of space exploration. “From an organizational perspective, this launch demanded the same as every other launch: Perfect execution,” Egert says.
Egert is applying analytical and statistical skills he learned as an undergraduate student in political science at Syracuse University. “Pulling in information, looking at what’s happening so I can report what people need to know, it has been huge,” he says. Before graduating, Egert wasn’t sure how he would use what he learned in a course on quantitative methods for the social sciences. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, is this a vocational program? It’s kind of silly.’ But no, it’s been indispensable.”
As a cadet in Syracuse University’s Reserve Officer Training Corps —the longest continuous program of its kind in the country—Egert found out he was assigned to space operations before graduation. He wasn’t sure what to expect but he loves it. He also enjoys being just a short drive from his hometown of Ocala, but he misses Syracuse. “It has a great downtown area, and you can walk everywhere. It’s just fantastic,” he says.
Being away from campus has also cemented his perception of Syracuse’s commitment to be the “Best Place for Veterans™.” “When you’re out in the world and you talk to other people about their school experiences as military-connected students, you realize Syracuse really is that good,” Egert says. He looks forward to visiting campus when he’s not on duty preparing for the next planned missions and SpaceX launches or resupplying the International Space Station. “I love what I’m doing now, and I loved Syracuse University. And to be able to go from one high point to the next high point, I mean, you can’t ask for anything else.”