12/3/20 Ashwin Sivakumar

Ashwin Sivakumar

December graduate Ashwin Sivakumar will be Purdue’s first ROTC cadet to become a U.S. Department of Defense Space Force officer.

He’s one of four ROTC cadets expected to graduate from Purdue this academic year (the other three expected to graduate in spring) and become Space Force officers, according to a news release from Purdue. Space Force operates through the Air Force ROTC.

Becoming a Space Force officer is the culmination of childhood interests for Sivakumar, 22, of Aldie, Virginia, who is majoring in aerospace engineering.

“I’ve always liked space very much,” he said in the release, adding that video games initially spurred his interest. “I loved astronomy as a child and rocketry and engineering.”

That childhood passion included the dream of one day becoming an astronaut. By taking a place in the U.S. Space Force, Sivakumar hopes it creates the opportunities for astronaut candidacy in the future.

“As an astronaut, I would hope to travel to Mars,” he said.

Purdue’s four Air Force ROTC cadets graduating this academic year are part of just 55 cadets selected nationwide for Space Force.

The U.S. Space Force was established in December 2019, becoming the sixth military service branch in the Department of Defense. 

Col. Ken Callahan, currently posted with the Purdue Air Force ROTC detachment, said Sivakumar’s performance as an Air Force ROTC cadet and in aerospace engineering has been outstanding.

“People in the Air Force know about Purdue and its connection to space,” Callahan said in the release. “There is a strong interest from the Space Force and the Air Force in Purdue, and Sivakumar is an example of the quality of education we have here.”

As an Air Force ROTC cadet, Sivakumar will graduate from Purdue this month and be put on the Air Force inactive reserve. Then, when he is called into active duty for Space Force, he will be given a training date and location.

In the meantime, Sivakumar said, he has been accepted into a doctoral program at Purdue in the School of Materials Engineering, working on a hypersonics project for Lockheed Martin.

At this point, cadets interested in Space Force do not have additional training. Callahan said Purdue Air Force ROTC is developing additional education and training for Space Force officers, but training is in the early stages. 

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