Sacramento aerospace – my new AO! (area of operations) 4

I have big news to share with readers of this blog.  My humble thanks and appreciation for all of you who have subscribed!  You’ll still see this relates to how to be a successful rocket scientist or aerospace engineer, so I hope you’ll learn something interesting too.

Times are tough for many people who want to have work they love to do and also pays them well. When you are one half of a couple where both of you are trying to do this, it creates it’s own unique set of challenges.  Or benefits.

On the positive side, you have someone else to lean on for support and stability.  This is especially helpful when the two of you work in different companies and industries.

But when one (or both) of you work in a niche industry that has limited options within a city or region, geography becomes a tough constraint.

A lot of work is shifting to remote or virtual work arrangements in our digital age.  That is possible in aerospace too, I’ve learned. But marriages aren’t made for that!

I wrote about this at length in an article on my Engineer Your Innovation blog last year, if you want to read this: The challenge of innovating with a dual career family.

With challenges come opportunities. And adventures.  That’s what my wife and I signed up for together as a couple.

The big news is that our adventure continues with a relocation from San Antonio, Texas to Sacramento, California.

Westward ho! frontier_homesteaders

We are more excited about it than this couple… if I had to do it on horseback I wouldn’t be happy either.

My wife’s career and expertise is in science museums and informal science education. If you think aerospace is a specialized niche with limited career options, we have an abundance of choices and opportunities compared to science museums.

As both of our careers have advanced and evolved, we have to look for a city where we can both do what we love, do what we are uniquely qualified for, earn a secure living, and raise our family in an environment that is appealing to us.

All of those goals and constraints, with two people in two different career niches, means it has been an occasional “adventure” to find a city that can work for us all.

You might not think of Sacramento when you think of aerospace. Sacramento is the state capital of California, and it is located in the northern half of the state.  You probably do recognize California as a major state for aerospace, but most of it is concentrated in Southern California, from San Diego through Los Angeles, up to Edwards Air Force Base and those surrounding areas.

California aerospace

That is a map of Amtrak routes in California, which shows all of the major cities.

The other area of California getting attention in aerospace is Silicon Valley (the San Francisco Bay area), due to investor money and entrepreneurs who are making big impacts in commercial space flight and commercial unmanned aircraft (drones).  More on commercial drones soon.

It turns out there is a lot of aerospace in Sacramento.  Here is a list of aerospace companies and aerospace-related institutions in Sacramento.  You can bet that I will be actively networking and marketing myself to maneuver into a productive and valuable position with one of them if the need exists!  (That is Tip #3 for how to be a rocket scientist – Associate with people in the field.  The task before that is to find out where they are likely to be found.)


AeroJet Rocketdyne logo

Aerojet Rocketdyne

This is by far the largest aerospace presence and employer in the Sacramento region. This historic rocket company made the main engine for the US Space Shuttle, the RS-25. Now they are building a modified version for the NASA Space Launch System (SLS).

2008 Phoenix Mars Landing with Aerojet rockets

2008 Phoenix Mars Landing with Aerojet rockets

They also build engines for Delta spacecraft and they are developing the entirely new AR1 rocket to remove America’s dependency on Russian rockets.  Aerojet Rocketdyne has sites throughout California and the rest of the country, but their Sacramento site makes them the largest aerospace employer in the city.

Kratos Unmanned Systems Division

Composites Engineering, Incorporated

CEi is a company with Kratos, now the leader in its Unmanned Systems Division.  They are the US military’s leading provider of unmanned aerial target systems and aircraft.


UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are the biggest growth area in aerospace and aviation in the years ahead.  That’s a great opportunity for CEi!  In another positive milestone, CEi recently received a major contract award for a low-cost UAV program for the US Air Force Research Lab (AFRL).

For other companies that want to learn how they can incorporate UAVs into their business, I’m working on a course right now for people who want to become the UAV champion and visionary within their business. Sign up here to learn when my course is available (expected in August 2016).

United Technologies Corp. Aerospace

Located in Fairfield, which is long commute from Sacramento toward San Francisco, UTC Aerospace makes energetic devices in Fairfield such as emergency ejection systems.

UTC Aerospace

ICON Aircraft

Also located west of Sacramento towards Silicon Valley, ICON Aircraft in Vacaville has built an innovative and elegant amphibious LSA (light sport aircraft). If Apple got into the general aviation industry, they would create an airplane like this beauty:


Everything I’ve seen and learned about ICON shows a beautiful integration of engineering and artistic design.  I can’t wait to find a way to get a tour of that facility!


Sierra Nevada Corporation

One of the leading companies in private space flight and electronic warfare has a presence in Sacramento.  Sierra Nevada is best known in rocket scientist circles for their Dream Chaser aircraft:

SNCorp DreamChaser 1

But they are also a proven and successful producer of electronic warfare (EW) , avionics, and ISR systems (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance). In Saramento they have a site and test range for EW.

General Dynamics Mission Systems

GDMS logoGeneral Dynamics is familiar as one of the major aerospace and defense companies in the U.S. The Mission Systems company provides a wide range of products and services in military networks, cyber security, and secure communications.  They do some of this work in Sacramento What it is exactly, that’s not so easy to find out. 😉


An honorary mention is deserved for Siemens.  In Sacramento they have a train facility.  Modern trains require engineering and design that is comparable to aerospace engineering.  And it is also a form of transportation.  I would expect that talented people in Sacramento, especially the engineering managers and project managers, could transfer their skills across aerospace companies and Siemens.


Besides this impressive list of companies, here are two institutions that make Sacramento an attractive home for current and future rocket scientists (or any aviation and space enthusiast):

The Aerospace Museum of California, located in the state capital of Sacramento:

Aerospace Museum of CA aerial

The Sacramento Challenger Learning Center.  Here is a video about their fantastic aerospace-themed STEM educational experience:

Challenger Center SAC video screenshot

Remembering Tip #3, associate with people in the field you want to work in, there are at least two aviation and aerospace professional societies with activities in Sacramento that are essential to get involved with:

AIAA – the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

aiaa-logo-white1As the leading society for aerospace professionals, anyone who has read my book or this blog knows that AIAA has been an extremely valuable and rewarding ingredient for my career.  Here is the Sacramento Section’s website.  Using my AIAA membership, I’ve already gotten in touch with a few officers of this Section. They are planning exciting things for the upcoming term. That may not be apparent from their website, so perhaps some of my website and online marketing expertise would be a good addition to their efforts…


AUVSI – the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International

SiliconValley_4C-2016_high res

The local chapter of AUVSI for Sacramento is the Silicon Valley chapter.  Thanks to my membership in AUVSI (and Twitter), I’ve already made contact with some of these officers too.  Since I plan to offer a course on project management for unmanned aircraft to help companies gain the benefits of drones for commercial use, you can be sure I’ll be getting engaged with the people and events in this group too.


There’s my big news! 

And I hope you learned something interesting about Sacramento aerospace too.

If you live in the Sacramento region, please get in touch with me!  I’m eager to meet people there and learn more about the area.

If you think there are any schools, teachers, or classrooms that would enjoy some tips or stories from How To Be a Rocket Scientist, please get in touch with me.  I’ll be eager to promote the opportunities for aerospace and aviation careers in Sacramento, or wherever a person may choose to live.

Thanks for reading this article!  If you have any questions, please write a comment below.  The ten tips I gave for how to be a rocket scientist are the same tips I’m going to use on myself!  If you have any questions about how you can use them for your own career, I would love to hear from you.

Until the next post, take care and take charge with your pursuits with rocket science!

About Brett Rocket Scientist

Brett creates artful work in engineering, ideas, and innovation. In addition to 2 degrees, 3 patents, and over 15 years experience in aerospace engineering, he is the author of several books to foster STEM careers. He volunteers his time and skills as an officer with professional societies.

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