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In Response to "Where did all the Propulsion Engineers go?" by Rob Lenaghan

July 12, 2017

 

The full article for this response can be seen here: http://nebula-space.com/propulsion-engineers-go/

I recently read an article by Rob Lenaghan on the lack of propulsion engineers in the space industry. There are exciting areas of development in reusable rockets, plasma propulsion, and perhaps advance rocketry; however, finding such talent is very difficult in the first place. On top of that, finding such talent requires the person to relocate since the demand for this talent is spread out around the globe; with the except for the United States as the ITAR law prevents most non-US citizens to work in this field.

 

So, are there other ways to attract propulsion engineers? Since the internet is readily available, connections are faster, and communicating is easier now than ever, why can't we do the development remotely? It cannot be completely remote as it is require to have parts being built and tested. However, having a satellite campus, either at an university or part of a small base, could potentially help propulsion engineers to do their work without sacrificing too much in their lives. I understand that this is experimental, and that majority of the people in the workforce are use to working together inside a campus, but this could be an excellent solution.

 

Here's an example on how a remote propulsion engineer could work with companies (non-governmental only): there's an engineer in Brazil who wants to work in his field but he has to move to Italy to fulfill his dream. He cannot move to Italy because of family-related issues, per-se. So what can he do? He can work from a partnering university to use their facilities to work on the design, data analysis, etc. A VPN connects him to the company in Italy. He does the work as instructed from the Italian company in due time. He will be in meetings with other engineers online. Once the design and simulation portions of the project is completed, he may have to travel to Italy from time to time to go through the testing.

 

The questions one person may ask are

  1. If the company has confidential information, wouldn't he just steal the information? This is where he has to sign a NDA and a confidentiality letter before starting the position. The New York Convention will be in effect. If he breaks the NDA or confidentiality, stiff penalties may ensued.

  2. I'm not use to having to speak with someone remotely, how can this be achieved? Do you communicate with your family by Facebook or Twitter? Are you as close to them as you were next to time? Most likely those two answers are yes. Even so, a lot of companies consult other businesses, like machinists and legal advice, to get work done. So this is possible.

  3. Other than universities, are there ways to get this to work? Another way to work around this is for the propulsion engineer to incorporate himself and set up his business remotely. It could be at his own home.

There are plenty of ways to attract and hire propulsion engineers, we have to think outside of the box.

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