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While we keep focusing on the earth, there is a race on to leave the planet and reach out in space. And while the previous era of space exploration was led by the Governments (think NASA, ROSCOSMOS, ISRO etc) the current leaders in the space are well-funded private companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Astroscale, Orbital Insights etc.

Let’s look at what some of these companies are doing:

SpaceX: Elon Musk’s famous company is an early pioneer focused on changing the economics of space flight – by making reliable reusable rockets and landing them on ocean-based drone platforms. He eventually plans to colonize Mars.

Blue Origin: Jeff Bezos is deploying some of his billions from Amazon into a space company that will eventually provide tourists a chance to travel into space for $200,000/flight.

Astroscale: Satellites like everything else have a lifespan. Once over, they become debris that can severely damage the newer satellites revolving around the earth. Astroscale is attempting to launch an orbital debris-monitoring satellite to create detailed maps of space junk, and by 2019 the company plans to launch the first satellite specifically made to track, capture, and pull a piece of debris out of orbit.

Orbital Insights: This company is developing unique processing applications for the data they capture, creating new use cases for businesses and governments alike by pushing the boundaries of geospatial analytics, the field of computer vision technology and machine learning that identifies signals and data points in satellite imagery.

These are only a handful of companies working at the cutting edge of space technology to develop new business models that do not currently exist. A look at the careers’ pages of each of these companies highlights the need for highly specialized skills in domains like computer vision (Lead Computer Vision Scientist – Orbital Insight), expertise in consultative selling and problem solving (Senior Sales Representative/Associate – Orbital Insight), broad understanding across many different technologies and capabilities (Mission Concepts Engineer – Astroscale), relevant experience in mechatronics, involving electronics and programming (Guidance Navigation & Control Engineer – Astroscale) among many others.

All these roles are still evolving and so these companies are flexible to hire people with expertise in adjacent domains. In the future, these roles will tend to become more specialized and more global. These companies have personnel requirements across different locations in USA, Europe and Japan. One read through their job descriptions clearly highlights that the primary trait they are looking for include passion for a new domain, flexibility to extend the acquired knowledge into new domains, ability to work across multicultural teams and geographies and a desire to build deep expertise in a chosen domain.

Youngsters looking to enter into traditional engineering programs would do well to research the innovative companies in the world, realize what passions they have and develop deep expertise in a domain. With the right skills, even the skies open up for success.


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