Last week millions of spectators gathered at the Kennedy Space Center and many millions more tuned in via TV or Web to watch history being made as the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis ended the shuttle program’s 30 years of flight.
Although the four shuttle astronauts are often the face of the space program, there are scores of people working behind the scenes. According to a recent feature story on the NASA website, a group of specially certified United Space Alliance Aerospace Technicians called spacecraft operators function as the “eyes, ears and hands” of the Shuttle Test Team at Kennedy Space Center. This group serves as an integral part of the processing and test teams that ensure the shuttle is ready to fly. As Spacecraft Operator Bill Powers notes in the article, “Our job is to make sure when [the astronauts] get in the [shuttle], there aren’t any surprises.”
There’s no question, Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians keep things running smoothly. Part of a highly skilled, technical team that supports equipment and systems designed to launch, track, position and evaluate air and space vehicles, these technicians operate, install, calibrate and maintain the integrated computer/communications systems consoles, simulators and other instruments designed to acquire data, test and measure. According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 30 percent of the current aerospace technician workforce will be retiring in the next six years, creating plenty of new job opportunities, which might range from positions in aerospace product and parts manufacturing, to air transportation support activities, facilities support services and scientific research and development services.
If these sound like intriguing professions, you might want to check out SpaceTEC. Made up of ten partner institutions in nine states, and headquartered at Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Florida, SpaceTEC is a tremendous resource for anyone interested in a career as an Aerospace technician. SpaceTEC provides educational materials, supports student recruitment and outreach activities to foster interest in aerospace and STEM subjects, maintains a national network of industry partners and promotes professional development opportunities for educators and practitioners. SpaceTEC’s National Resource Center for Aerospace Technical Education, based at Kennedy Space Center, additionally provides professional certification in several areas.
Besides Brevard, participating SpaceTEC schools and programs include Allan Hancock Community College in Santa Maria, California; Calhoun Community College in Huntsville, Alabama; the Community College of the Air Force in Montgomery, Alabama; Dona Ana Community College in Las Cruces, New Mexico; Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington; Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida; the National Center for Aerospace & Transportation Technologies; Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia; and Tulsa Technical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Check out the individual web sites for lots more information on the field of aerospace technology, educational requirements, and job openings.