August 24, 2018: Weekly Spatial Resolutions

Here’s your “talent gap!” This site contains my opinions and ideas only, not the opinions or ideas of any organization I work for. It’s my idea playground, and I’m inviting you in. Welcome!

If You Are Planning On Building Your Own Space Shuttle…

Fun! While I still don’t quite understand the space connection for, this post lists a few considerations for those who want to take NASA’s plans and build a space shuttle. The author also posts a link to a Space Shuttle Haynes manual.

Startup 3-D rocket maker Relativity Space adds more great talent

Maybe, one day, someone will write up a headline of a company adding “worse talent.”

A guy can dream…

Stratolaunch Announces New Launch Vehicles

I’m still trying to figure out how this makes sense. Initially, the company seems like it will be relying on Northrop Grumman’s Pegasus air-launched rocket. The bullet mentions the Pegasus has already been launched 35 times, which is pretty poor when compared to how long it’s been around.

Especially poor, when comparing NG’s offering with SpaceX’s, a company that has existed for less time than the Pegasus, has launched it’s Falcon 9 many more times (nearly twice as much). Extra-especially poor when considering the Pegasus, launched from an old air platform, still costs nearly as much as a Falcon 9 to launch. Extra-extra-especially poor considering Pegasus can only lift 370 kilograms (according to Stratolaunch) of mass to low Earth orbit, a rounding error when compared to the Falcon 9’s nearly 23,000 kilograms of mass capability.

I can’t imagine how much cost will be added when Pegasus gets coupled with the Stratolaunch aircraft. I don’t see Orbital…I mean “Northrop Grumman”…lowering Pegasus launch prices. And Stratolaunch needs to recover costs.

And while those other launch vehicles mentioned in the article (MLV, MLV-H, etc.) seem to have decent capabilities and look pretty in the image, I don’t think I’ve heard a whisper of actual rocket development going on for the Stratolaunch aircraft. Building rockets from scratch takes longer than anyone normally anticipates. Just ask NASA, SpaceX, and Rocket Lab.

How rocket-makers ensure 3D printed parts are strong enough for space

Intriguing headline, right? Prepare to be disappointed.

It’s one of many press releases in the presses this week for a particular space company.

Rocket round up: SpaceX plans next launch, continues prep for Crew Dragon

Is either story really news? I mean, SpaceX is a launch service provider. This means the company launches things. I would expect them to launch. I would expect them to plan to launch. The company being unable to launch would be actual news.

Ditto for Crew Dragon activities. So they’re both non-news news stories.

Space agency leader looks toward next journey

Maybe it’s because he’s giving a pep talk in Alabama? Leaving Alabama is a journey to look forward to. Unless it’s to Florida. Or North Dakota.

Op-ed | Talent gap jeopardizes space business, national security

There are some very incorrect assumptions in this opinion piece, and they may exist because they are based in inaccurate data. Coming straight from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the space workforce has hemorrhaged jobs for a good long while, at least a decade, and appears to still be losing more people. No one in the space industry seems to be hiring to replace the people that have all been let go.

This seems to mean a lot of experienced space folks are left out. Even worse for DoD purposes: those retiring military space operators, some with decades of experience and precious security clearances, probably won’t be hired by the companies that could use that experience. At least they won’t be hired at what they are worth. DoD historically relied on that kind of churn to conduct space operations, but perhaps that’s changing. Overall, however, this seems to be a lot of dismissed “talent,” and I suspect greed has much to do with it.

To reiterate: the rest of the U.S. workforce seems to be on the upswing, definitely a different trajectory from the U.S. space workforce’s downward slide. Why is that? Did people in the existing space workforce suddenly become incompetent? Did they become less talented? Why did the U.S. space industry not only chase away the talent it had, but then continue to lose jobs?

And why would people come back to an industry that appears to not want them? These people have families, mortgages, etc. If there’s another industry that will use their talents, who can blame them for not waiting on the space industry to figure things out?

There are smart people out there. We see it every day in every sector. And even in the space industry, some companies are better at attracting the younger talent than legacy companies. One problem is that the big companies, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, ULA, and others, are too similar to each other. I believe part of this is because they reflect their customers, who are the U.S. government and military. And those customers sometimes impose rules, such as: companies can’t poach talent from each other at particular sites.

Great for companies. Not great for employees, current or prospective.

I remember an interview I went to many years ago. Reps from several of the above companies were there to interview me for the one position. They all mentioned during talking with me that I could just choose whichever company I thought I would like–the benefits would be pretty much the same. Imagine a younger, just-out-of-college kid being told that. But imagine the kid also knew SpaceX was hiring. Or Facebook. Or Google.

Which do you think the kid would choose? The job where it’s obvious the company  doesn’t care who you are for a customer who doesn’t care either? Or one of the jobs where you’re told you can help make history? People can focus on educating for space and in STEM, but if companies aren’t competing for hires, as we see in the U.S. space industry generally, then that educated person walks elsewhere. As educated people have been doing for the past few years now.

Suggestion number 6 in the op-ed is especially odious and out-of-touch. “Hackathon” is so 1999. “Gamefication” is an overused marketing term. But those terms, plus leaderboards and assessments, seem to imply action only on the prospective employee’s part, when he/she must perform in some way to become an employee of the company. And when the performance is complete, “Good monkey!” I don’t know what an “inside the culture” conversation means, but maybe that’s the point–it’s meaningless. Point being: those suggestions imply the U.S. space companies have power over job seekers. The data paints a different picture.

As Sarah once exclaimed to Jareth, the Goblin King, in the movie “Labyrinth:” “You have no power over me!” And like the Goblin King, those companies and the DoD have no power over the the talent. The “talent gap” is a story to justify that lack of power.

I bailed on that interview.

Ex-SpaceX engine expert to help design rockets built for launch on world’s largest jet

The real news is the editor’s failure to add 10 more words to the above headline.

‘Good Luck!’ Astronaut Tells Youngsters Tackling Lego Space Challenge

Legos, robots, and space. These are a few of my favorite things.

I really, really wish this kind of thing existed when I was a kid. In this case, the kids are tackling long-duration spaceflight challenges. Who knows what they might come up with, but maybe there’s a gold nugget in there somewhere.


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