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Of Satellites and Beer

More than a spacecraft designer-engineer, Joe Hackel has a thirst for solving small problems.

A spacecraft designer-engineer by trade, engineering major Joe Hackel ’95 recently shifted into a less esoteric design sphere, driven by his penchant for a bottle of always-foamy, chilled beer.

“I kept having to pour out my half-finished bombers of beers, as beer in open bottles quickly becomes flat,” he complained.

Hackel invented Bombproof, a beer-bottle opener plus sealer to relieve his frustration. Despite his invention’s apparent lack of connection to his job, his aerospace engineering knowledge served him well, he says. With a patent pending, Hackel uses a 3-D printer to manufacture the sealers and sells them on, a do-it-yourself website with low fees. 

“The top is a regular bottle opener, the bottom is the sealer,” says Hackel.

“It uses FDA-approved silicone rubber, creating a tight, reusable seal on top of the bottle. It’s perfect for picnics, skiing, or the beach because, if your bottle falls over, it’s sealed tight.”

Hackel’s turn toward serving the needs of Joe Sixpack is just his latest surprising shift. His real aspiration was to become an aerospace engineer—but not before he’d taught high-school Latin for two years.

Today, with a graduate degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado–Boulder, he’s senior systems spacecraft engineer with Ball Aerospace in Denver, where he designs spacecraft and instruments for government organizations. These include DigitalGlobe’s Worldview satellites, which, armed with high-resolution data-gathering capability, are used for Earth observation. 

“When you use Google Earth, think of me,” says Hackel, chuckling. “That’s our spacecraft in orbit, taking pictures. Rocket science is just fun.”