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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

What is a Space Engineer?

I've had some interesting reactions from people when I tell them about my career plans.

Some raise an eyebrow, unsure they had heard me correctly. I don't blame them, it's not often you hear people who say they want to be a space engineer and on top of that, what is a space engineer?

I don't make it any easier, really, as I refuse to don the more commonly known title of "rocket scientist". Such a title is limiting and confusing to me as it is and I have a weird reluctance to apply a label unless it is incredibly accurate.

So, what is a "space engineer"?

Short answer: here.

Longer answer, onward.

It is not someone who makes space, although I have made that joke before, and it's not someone who designs space, although I do that in my spare time.

A space engineer is a person who designs, tests, and builds products to be used in outer space. While a civil engineer focuses on buildings, transportation, and all that is needed here on the ground, space engineers concerns themselves with objects which need to work in space.

While we share the same physical, scientific, and engineering design background, we apply it differently. A space engineer works on satellites, rovers, comminications systems and sometimes, rockets.

We learn about the physical environment of space, the dangers to equipment and people, the successes and failures of the past, and the limits of the present.

Our field is growing, expensive, innovative, and sometimes a little removed from the daily concerns here on Earth.

In later posts, I'll reflect upon the positives and negatives of my field but while my job title might say "Systems Specialist" or "Project Coordinator", space engineer will always remain the most accurate for me.

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