Tag Archives: research analyst

Two Years Later as a Space Industry Analyst

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Happy New Year!

Transitions are not unfamiliar to me. During my childhood, our family moved around a lot. We’d move to other countries occasionally, always from assignment to assignment on different Air Force bases. Each move contained challenges and over time, each time, I looked forward to the moves. A move meant I would see something different, make new friends, and learn something new. It was great being a Air Force “brat.”

I’d like to think growing up in a military family, moving, and as a result, adapting and learning, have influenced me positively. I might never have learned German, German culture, or eventually become aware of different perspectives from the American Way. My tolerance for risk might have been lower or non-existent. I might never have tried to make my luck with writing.

I have the same attitude towards job transitions. Each new job means there’s something new to learn, something different. So, how do I feel about changing from a satellite missile defense test manager and space operator to my current position as a space industry research analyst? It’s been over two years since I took on this writing gig.

I like the change! Heck yeah, I really like this last transition! I’m learning a lot, too.

I’ve always had an affinity for writing. My degree was in communications, for goodness sakes. I definitely am better at expressing myself in writing than speaking. Writing allows for my brain’s background processing to come to the fore in a nice tidy package once the processing is done. Writing about the space industry is icing on the cake.

But it’s not just about writing about the industry. It’s also learning about the industry, conducting research, finding great sources, reading whatever I can find, which can sometimes seem unrelated. Then I think about it all. I think about it in the gym. I think about it when I’m watching TV at home. I think about it when I’m sleeping. It’s the way my brain likes to work. Some of my better insights come from listening to podcasts not at all connected to my research. Some of my ideas just fall in my lap while running on the treadmill. It’s not tiring, and it’s not forced.

So, yes, my current job is a blast. So much so, I don’t really feel like it’s a job. I get to meet with interesting people from around the world. I get to study and learn about new trends in the industry. I get to write it all down. And, shockingly, people find the information I bring to them useful. It doesn’t hurt I’ve got a good boss, who also has a good boss. It doesn’t hurt I’m on a team full of great people. But what motivates me is finding and writing an analysis people use. It’s wonderful when that happens.

It’s not all sunshine and tea cakes all the time. And the transition between jobs was a bit rough, as part of the problem was me trying to figure out what I REALLY wanted to do. But I can honestly say I feel more fulfilled in this job than my prior work. Admittedly, my experiences and lessons learned in my prior work helped me in my transition to this job. And I’m still learning a lot. So I’ll mention a quick overview of my perception of the space industry today.

There is so much going on in the space industry, a person researching the category would really have to work hard to NOT learn something. Space situational awareness, small satellite growth, possible new entries in the launch market, reusable rocket stages, and more—there’s always a learning moment waiting around the corner. And that’s assuming a person stuck with studying only the American launch industry. But globally, there are trends that impact the launch industry, too.

There are the activities conducted by India and China. Both countries have very active space programs, with China’s commitment evidenced in it’s recent 2016 attainment as the world’s most prolific launcher for that year (actually, they tied with the US this year–I just finished updating our database–sorry). The Europeans haven’t been sitting still either. And there’s surely a story behind Russia’s alarming decline in launches for 2016 as well as a seeming decline in launch reliability, too.

That’s not to say that the U.S. is lagging. From my observation, the U.S. space industry is perhaps the most innovative and most vibrant it’s been in a while. But the U.S. space industry is also in transition, slowly switching from primarily government-sponsored missions relying on government launch services, to a healthier, and hopefully multi-pronged launch industry with many more customers. There are many, many plans, from many entrepreneurs and companies, some of which may actually transition to real businesses and opportunities.

The upshot is, I get to research, learn, ponder, and write about this changing and interesting industry. It’s been fun during the past few years, and I’m pretty sure it will be fun for the next few. This was a fortunate transition for me. Sorry if that sounds like bragging.

Transitions can be wonderful—if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. Oh, yeah!

 

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The Temporary “Space Operators”

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Japan’s part in space talked about during their session. Picture from me–TMSB.

It’s been a little over a day since the organization I work in, the Space Foundation, hosted the 32nd Space Symposium at our beautiful Broadmoor resort here in Colorado Springs. Thousands of people from around the world came to meet us and others to talk about all sorts of space topics during the last week. Of course we’ve been getting ready for the event for much longer than that.

While I work alongside awesome teammates and volunteers, I also talked with very cool and interesting visitors I never thought I’d be able to chat with in my life: a Congressional aide or two, a Czech sounding instrument engineer, a German optics payload specialist, a Puerto Rican launch company startup–just for starters. And me being me, the mind keeps gathering information in the background and processing it–while talking, while walking, while driving, and–and this is certainly problematic–while sleeping. So the thoughts I’m about to elaborate on are my own–not the Space Foundation’s–and I don’t want anyone to think anything I put here represents what the Space Foundation is promoting, because it doesn’t.

The upshot is there’s so much going on in space, it’s mind-boggling. As a research analyst in the space industry, I try my hardest to keep the pulse of the world in space activities. First of all, it’s my job. But second, I love doing it. I look up information for companies, organizations, startups and more who are doing something with space be it products, services, data, infrastructure, employment. It’s always changing, and I’m always surprised by what I find.

Do my activities mean I know everything about what’s going on? Absolutely not. And that point certainly hit home this last week as I talked with Symposium participants about what they did, what their plans were, and their thoughts about what they saw as a future in space. There was even a former Army colonel, a colleague of mine, working for a company now, who has big space dreams which I won’t elaborate on because those dreams are for him to unfold and hopefully succeed with. And I wish him well. Smart or energetic personalities continue to push their vision of their part in the space industry, which is why I am laxly putting them all under the “space operations” title. if only during last week.

As a former space operator in the USAF, I know there are differences between what I did, and what the people I met at Symposium are doing. Some are also space operators in “real life,” since space agencies, space services providers, and the military were also there. But we all have done or are doing our part to make the world a better place, using space as the tool to do so. For this one week, we were all “space operators” before heading back to become that optical specialist, sounding engineer, launch vehicle startup, or research analyst. Each one in a role in resolving problems that will allow them or their company to become successful, usually by introducing something ultimately useful in making space cheaper, more affordable, more relevant than ever.

So now we all go back to those roles. For me, this happens a little later, as there are only slightly less than fifty of us in the Space Foundation, and while it’s been fun, we really need a break. But, based on my conversations, this whole next year of space activities is going to be fun to watch, giving us quite a bit to talk about during Symposium next year. The markets space is involved in have expanded, but it would be foolish to think those are the only markets for space. As in our day-to-day activities, there will be new markets and new opportunities. It would be more interesting if we could see more Chinese and Russian presence, but as in “What about Bob?” it’s baby-steps–especially in space. Each step another “small step” for mankind.