Space Jobs


Source: Wired

The United States’ government-run manned spaceflight program was given a one-two punch in the last year. In August 2009, the Augustine Commission (appointed by the Obama administration) recommended that NASA look to commercial space operators to take on the burden of ferrying mission commanders, scientists and specialists up to the International Space Station. Then in February 2010, the administration’s 2011 budget reflected that charge.

If Congress goes through with the budget proposal (and that is a big if), NASA will stop work on the Constellation program, including the in-development Orion module and Ares rocket and focus instead on a new heavy-lift vehicle and new space-related technologies. The move will pave the way for companies like SpaceX to take up the helm for low-Earth orbit (LEO) human spaceflight.

And, while other fledgling spaceflight companies like Virgin Galactic are not preparing to send people all the way up to the space station, they and other commercial companies are also making waves.

So what will a job market for the aspiring space junkie look like in 20 to 30 years? For a long time, the single goal for kids that were obsessed with spaceflight was to become an astronaut. Now, it looks like that job title will have some competition. Here are 10 non-scientist jobs I believe youngsters should start to prepare for:

LEO pilot (eventually, lunar transfer pilot)

Nerves of steel, excellent piloting skills (atmosphere and LEO). Must be able to calm tourists and provide comedic banter during flight. Virgin Galactic has the lock on this job category for the next few years. But Jeff Bezos is doing something out there in the Texan desert.

Space-travel ticket broker

While most travel agents are going the way of the dinosaur, a sub-culture of space-travel ticket brokers are just beginning to spring up. Their specialty will be helping you to plan your next trip to LEO, a space-based hotel stay or the ultimate lunar adventure.

Spaceport traffic control (also, on-orbit traffic control, Earth and lunar)

The skies can get busy once the industry begins to take off. Currently, the FAA has jurisdiction over private sub-orbital spaceflights. But if a company decides to take their business to the next level and go orbital, a new breed of traffic controller will need to be trained.

Human-rated spacecraft maintenance

Many of the country’s rocket builders are working on unmanned vehicles. As we get more human-rated craft ready for launch, specialists in this type of maintenance (life support systems, escape systems, etc.) will become more common.

Space communications specialist

Digital communications between space crews and their respective homebases will be a critical factor in any company’s success. And besides, we’ll need someone around to make sure all of the tourists’ Twitter and Facebook updates make their way to the internet from LEO or beyond.

Space Construction and Repair Specialist

As more permanent structures are built in LEO, it will take a specially trained person to handle repairs and upgrades. Some of these positions will be in situ (imagine putting in a three-month maintenance rotation), while others will blast up to their construction sites as needed.

Lunar base psychologist (presence on the moon not required)

Living for six months on the ISS is one thing. You are a Soyuz escape pod away from home. But, living on the moon will be a completely different experience. If we have regular flights up to lunar orbit, then you are at least three days away from being back under blue skies. And living in a desolate environment like the Moon could have an adverse psychological impact (studies are underway). Being that far away may give people thoughts of seceding from Earth.

Mars colony psychologist

If you think living on the moon is difficult, try living on Mars for two years, with little to no chance of rescue if things go bad. Add in the 11 minute communication delay and one word sums up your experience: isolated. Our Russian and European friends are already experimenting with extremely long-term disconnectedness (see Mars500). In addition to helping maintain the mental health of any Martian exploration group, a thorough psych exam will be a part of any team-selection process.

Nuclear and solar power engineers

Any base on the moon or Mars will need to generate its own power. Solar is the best bet for the moon (depending on the base location). However, a good nuclear generator would make a good backup. And it will be almost required for any long-term Mars and asteroid-belt mission.

On-orbit refueling specialist

One of the more exciting proposals to come out of the Augustine Commission was the idea of maintaining fuel depots on orbit. The plan is to provide service contracts to commercial spaceflight companies to keep these depots topped off with rocket propellant. With the depots in place, we could maintain a fleet of space-worthy craft that would serve as shuttles to lunar space or out to Mars and beyond. A space-based gas station!

Source: Huffington Post

Picture how different your life would be if commercial air travel didn’t exist — and imagine the millions of jobs that would vanish. Fortunately, commercial passenger aviation does exist and it exists because the U.S. government in the 1920s wisely decided to begin flying “air mail” on commercial airplanes, accelerating the growth of the entire passenger airline industry. President Obama’s bold, new plan for NASA, announced earlier this month, makes an equally wise decision by promoting the growth of commercial spaceflight. This is a win-win decision; creating thousands of new high-tech jobs and helping America retain its leadership role in science and technology.

President Obama’s decision to invest in this growing industry comes at a perfect time. Entrepreneurial companies like Virgin Galactic, Scaled Composites, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Space Systems, Masten Space Systems, Armadillo Aerospace, XCOR Aerospace, and Blue Origin are investing their own money, right now, to create new jobs across the nation, including my home state of New Mexico, as they roll out innovative space vehicles. Even the larger, more traditional firms that build launch vehicles for government satellite missions are throwing their hat into the ring to launch new commercial space activities. Commercial spaceflight represents the type of dynamic innovation that we need to create 21st century jobs. Indeed, commercial space companies are one of the few industries that have continued to hire people during the recession.

Our modern economy depends on space — it is woven into our social fabric, from bank transactions and weather forecasts that depend on satellite signals, to GPS and the latest overhead images by commercial spacecraft that will help us rebuild Haiti. America’s commercial space industry can bring private investment to the table and enable government dollars to go much further in meeting our goals. Our nation’s military already benefits from the use of commercial communications and remote sensing satellites, and trusts the commercial sector to launch critical military satellites on rockets designed and built commercially. Now NASA is poised to follow in the same direction by placing an emphasis on commercial space.

In New Mexico, our support for commercial spaceflight is already reaping benefits. About 500 New Mexicans are now on the job, creating the first commercial spaceport in the world. Another 300 new jobs are expected this year. The spaceport is fulfilling its promise of inspiring young people to study math and science and developing our statewide economy. Our anchor tenant, Virgin Galactic, recently unveiled its completed, environmentally friendly spacecraft, and has over forty two million dollars deposited in reservations. The demand is there, and New Mexico will get its return on investment.

Americans will get their return on investment, too. The excitement of commercial spaceflight is already inspiring kids to pursue careers in science and technology, something our nation desperately needs to remain competitive with emerging powers like China.

Full article here.

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Scaled Composites: Avionics Engineer needed. Click Here.

“Avionics software development experience is a plus. Pilot experience is a definite plus. We are looking for someone who has a passion for aviation / space…”

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XCOR: Fabricator of Carbon-Fiber Spaceships and Planes needed.

Fabricators of Carbon-Fiber Spaceships and Planes – The new lightweight carbon materials that bicyclists ride in the Tour de France are also being used to make spacecraft. Reuben Garcia, who works for XCOR aerospace company, calls composite fabricators the “shipbuilders of the modern era.” First paychecks may be small, but can climb to $20 an hour, and those with engineering degrees can make $100,000 a year.

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LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The first bid packages for the Spaceport America project in southern New Mexico will be released in about two weeks. That’s according to a project director, who said all 13 bid packages will be released by June, providing construction work and other jobs.

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Article from Las Cruces-Sun News describing recent Spaceport America town hall meetings.  Interesting to note the positive turnout.

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Interesting article (“Spaceport Could Spur Commercial Real Estate Development in Southern New Mexico”) from Commercial Property News.

Dees Stribling, author of the piece, explores the potential commercial real estate boom triggered by Spaceport America.  Just one example of the many non-space specific industries positioned to grow as NewSpace develops.

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“New Mexico Meetings Focus on Spaceport Job Opportunities

A series of town hall-style meetings are scheduled for the the next few weeks for local contractors, businesses, organizations and individuals interested in spaceport opportunities. Gerald Martin Construction Management of Albuquerque — the company selected to manage the construction of Spaceport America — will host these informational meetings at locations in Las Cruces, Hatch, Truth or Consequences, Anthony, Deming, Silver City and Alamogordo.