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Spacecraft donation brings exciting project to TSTC’s Aircraft Airframe program


(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Not many college students get to fulfill their dream of being rocket scientists.

But for two students of Leo Guajardo, a Texas State Technical College Aircraft Airframe and Powerplant instructor in Harlingen, they can come close. 

Guajardo and the students are the stewards of an X-38 space prototype vehicle frame for research purposes.

Through an initial partnership years ago between the city of Santa Rosa and TSTC, NASA gifted the X-38 space prototype to inspire a newer generation of space explorers. Originally the spacecraft was designed to bring astronauts home from outer space.

Guajardo has made this a special long-term project with the two TSTC students, Adrian Nacianceno and Izzy Ortiz. 

The students are cleaning the heat panels and then bolting them back onto the spacecraft. One panel takes 30 National Aerospace Standards-certified space bolts to specific numbered sections on the body. Once this project is complete, the X-38 will be used as a beacon to inspire other students to consider careers related to space exploration.

“Adrian and Izzy have the expertise, they have demonstrated integrity, trustworthiness and a willingness to excel in their future careers,” Guajardo said.

Nacianceno is pursuing Associate of Applied Science degrees in both Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology.

“You are used to seeing airplanes for this program,” he said. “I was amazed to see a spacecraft, and it pushes me to work harder because this is something not seen in the Valley.”

Guajardo wants to ensure that the technologies and processes that are learned by the students can transition from aviation to aerospace.

“Space technology is now becoming mainstream due to private entities in the modern space race,” he said. “I want my students to be part of that race, and I’m training them so they can build those spacecraft of 2025 and 2030.”

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 of completion.

For more information about TSTC, visit