Mechanical engineering graduate joins United States Space Force


By Mariah Chuprinski

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Austin Learn, a 2021 Penn State graduate in mechanical engineering, was recently commissioned into the United States Space Force, a branch of the U.S. military chartered in 2019. Learn was a member of the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) for four years while attending Penn State.

Learn, who graduated with 23 Air Force ROTC classmates, is the second Penn State Air Force ROTC graduate to be selected to join the Space Force. As a new branch, the Space Force currently recruits its servicemen and women from the Air Force after they are trained.

In September, Learn will report to the Los Angeles Air Force Base, located in El Segundo, California, for his position as an acquisitions manager at the Space and Missile Systems Center.

“Like the rest of the military, the Space Force contributes to the national defense mission,” Learn said. “It works to give the United States a significant presence in space.”

The force also protects U.S. satellites and monitors for early detection of missiles and silos launched by other countries.

Though he does not yet know all the details of his position, Learn will most likely work with Department of Defense contractors to respond to their needs, and assist with research and development projects.

From Ebensburg, Learn graduated at the top of his class at Penn State and was selected by the College of Engineering to be the 2021 student marshal representing ROTC. He chose Colonel Lawrence Havird, U.S. Air Force, commanding officer of Penn State Air Force ROTC and professor of aerospace studies, to be his faculty marshal.

Learn interned with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Penn State Learning Factory, and served as president of the Aerospace Studies Student Organization in 2020. He also participated in Silver Wings, a professional development and service organization affiliated with the Air Force, and danced in THON for Silver Wings in 2019.

The first in his family to attend Penn State and the first to join the service, Learn sought out the Air Force ROTC because he was attracted to the full scholarship the program offered. He applied for the scholarship as a junior in high school and was accepted.

“After I got the scholarship, I decided to go to the best school in Pennsylvania: Penn State,” he said. “And when I applied, I put down a major, not really knowing what I wanted to do.”

The major, mechanical engineering, stuck.

“I liked how it’s so broad, and you can do so much with it,” he said. “You can study aircraft, machinery — anything that moves, honestly.”

His stellar academic record and knowledge of mechanical engineering may have contributed to being selected to join the Space Force.

“I got a call from my commander in January, saying, ‘Congratulations, you’re going to be in the Space Force!’” Learn said. “I could not believe it.”


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College of Engineering Media Relations

person dressed in air force uniform stands at ease in front of nittany lion statue

The first in his family to attend Penn State and the first to join the service, Austin Learn was selected from an ROTC Air Force class of 23 to join the Space Force. IMAGE: PROVIDED