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Expanding Your World View

Which way do I go?

A while back I was a guest speaker at an aerospace technician class.  This was the first semester for the class in a two year program.  I asked the students where they planned on working after graduation and to the man/woman, they all said “the Space Shuttle program” at Kennedy Space Center.  I pointed out the program would be over by the time they graduated in two years and a look of surprise and dismay crossed their faces.  I then asked if they were aware of and could name other space ports in these United States of America and they indicated they were not aware of any others.  I proceeded to teach them about the other space ports and to explain that the skills they were learning will be needed there also.

Kennedy Space Center gets all the publicity because of Human Space Flight, but there are currently nine space ports in use and 3 proposed ones.  The nearest space port is just right across Mosquito Lagoon from KSC at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS).  The primary companies that launch there are United Launch Alliance and SpaceX.  (SpaceX also has a launch facility at the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean.)  Many unmanned NASA probes, government, and commercial satellites are launched from this facility at multiple launch pads.  Also Pegasus launches are conducted from there.  CCAFS has been launching rockets since the 1950’s.

Further up the east coast is NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility at Goddard Space Flight Center.  Wallops is responsible for launching sub-orbital and small orbital launches along with testing and research.  Wallops has been in business launching these smaller rockets since 1945.

Just next door to Wallops is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS).  MARS launches both commercial and government payloads.  MARS has been launching rockets since 2006.

Moving out west, there is the Nevada Test and Training Range responsible for launching sounding rockets and test vehicles.  It was formally known as Nellis Air Force Base and is also home to Area 51.  They have been launching since the 1950’s along with many other activities.

The next launch facility is in New Mexico called Spaceport America.  It’s most famous resident is Virgin Galactic which will be launching tourists into sub-orbital flight within the next year.  Spaceport America also does sub-orbital commercial launches.  Spaceport America has been an operating spaceport since 2006.

California has three spaceports, including one that is mobile.  First is the Vandenberg Air Force Base which specializes in ballistic missile tests, along with the typical government and commercial satellite payloads.  Vandenberg has been launching rockets since the 1950’s.

The second California spaceport is the privately owned Mojave Air & Space Port.  This facility is famous for the two historic launches of Space Ship One.  Mojave Air & Space Port has been operating since 2004.

The third California space port is Ocean Odyssey Complex owned and operated by Sea Launch.  Ocean Odyssey Complex is a converted oil rig with associated support ships whose home port is in Long Beach California but does the actual launches at the equator in the Pacific Ocean.  Ocean Odyssey Complex has been doing commercial launches since 1999.

If you don’t mind the cold, there is the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska.  Kodiak is operated by the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation and specializes in satellite and ballistic missile interceptor launches.  They have been in operation since 1998.

There are three proposed space ports that have not yet launched any rockets: Oklahoma Spaceport in Burns Flat OK, Corn Ranch in Van Horn TX, and Spaceport Sheboygan in Wisconsin.

There are also numerous spaceports throughout the world if you feel like working outside of the country.  You can find a list of these spaceports along with the appropriate links here.

The point is, though Shuttle work at KSC (though some other work there continues) is coming to a standstill, there is still lots of work at CCAFS (for example SpaceX and ULA) and other spaceports throughout the country and the world for certified aerospace technicians both in government and private companies.  Don’t limit your talents and skills to just one spaceport.  Think outside of the box and the area when it comes to pursuing the career you have chosen.

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Friday, October 22nd, 2010 Career Advice 1 Comment