What the Google investment in SpaceX means for rocket scientists

Yes, it is exciting news to hear that SpaceX announced it received $1B in funding from Google and Fidelity.  Here is Wired’s article on the news.

As I emphasized in Tip #2 in my book (Tip #2: Expand your concept of rocket science), if you want a career in aerospace (AKA rocket science) you need to think about more than the usual suspects.

Of course SpaceX is already well known and highly desired as a company to work for in aerospace. SpaceX has actually been referred to as the Google of the aerospace world, so it is kind of poetic and fitting for them to have a partnership IMO.

This blog isn’t going to be a billboard for just one aerospace company, so let’s look at the bigger picture and how you can use this big announcement to chart a course for your aerospace career.

Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic commented that he is also working on a plan to create global high speed internet coverage via a network of satellites.  (This is one of the major goals of the SpaceX and Google / Fidelity investment).  It seems unlikely to me that both of them will be able to move from concept to reality in a profitable fashion.  But whatever happens, we are going to need a lot of rocket scientists!  Specifically, people who know how to design, build, launch, and operate satellites.  And telecommunication / electronics experts.

For the satellite work, you’ll need to study a lot of math and physics.  To decide how and where to put this large constellation of satellites, they are going to need a lot of engineers who know orbital mechanics.  (If you want an early and fun start with this, play the Simple Rockets game which I wrote about earlier.)  To learn more about this discipline and get connected with other students, professors, and professionals in aerospace I will again recommend AIAA – the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (and it’s international–not just for Americans).

To design and analyze all of the electrical power systems, internet signals and protocols, and all the electrons and radiation that is a part of these systems, they are going to need many electrical engineers and technicians.  The largest professional society dedicated to these domains is IEEE – the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

SpaceX and/or Virgin Galactic or Boeing or Lockheed Martin may be the prime contractors for these future high speed internet satellite constellations.  But they will rely on many other companies as suppliers and subcontractors for valuable technology and services throughout the program and product lifecycle.  Don’t forget about them!

We are going to have satellites orbiting our Earth for as long as we will be living here.  With Google and Fidelity pumping another billion dollars into SpaceX, there should be many more on the way.  This combined with the reality of an aging workforce (many Baby Boomers retiring) means one thing for sure–we need more rocket scientists!!

Let’s celebrate the big announcement and get to work!


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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