Working in Space

Humans have explored space for over 50 years now, but we have only travelled as far as our own Moon and less than six hundred people have had the chance to go to space. This is going to change.

More and more commercial companies are contributing to human space exploration, where in the past we have relied on governments for funding and research. Companies such as Reaction Engines, Virgin Galactic and Space X are changing the future of the space industry.

In the UK, the space industry is thriving and to meet the expected growth, we are going to need a lot more scientists and engineers.

One of the key aims of companies such as Reaction Engines, is to find a new way to go into space. We want to have a reusable spacecraft that can get us into orbit cheaply. This means there are opportunities to develop new types of materials and systems for use in getting to space.

There are going to be more opportunities to work in space. The International Space Station (ISS) is in orbit 400 km above the Earth. On board, a crew of six carry out scientific experiments. In addition to the government-backed Astronauts, there have been seven Private Space Participants. These people have paid to go on a trip to the ISS with a company called Space Adventures. Whilst there, some of them have helped pay for their trip by doing experiments for scientific companies. This will be the future of working in space: scientists will work in their lab in orbit carrying out their research.

Alternatively, you could find yourself working as a pilot or cabin crew for Virgin Galactic. They are offering the chance to fly to the edge of space, experience weightlessness and look at the beautiful view of Earth from orbit. This isn’t going to be accessible to everyone (it will set you back $200,000 for a ticket) but as more companies invest in new technology, materials and techniques the cost will come down over time.

If you are interested in getting your career off to a flying start, you may want to be:

  • physicist – carrying out research which could go towards the development of all kinds of technology from communications and energy efficiency to space and satellites
  • An aerospace engineer – involved in the development of spacecraft and the technology used in space expeditions
  • An aerospace engineering technician – designing and building all types of civil and military aircraft, as well as weapons systems and satellites
  • An electronics engineer – solving problems and coming up with solutions for equipment used in space satellites and other equipment
  • computer technician – installing, maintaining and repairing the computer systems and equipment involved in space exploration and observation
  • materials engineer ensuring that the materials and processes on a spacecraft are suitable for use in the harsh environment of space
  • research scientist in a Space Science Laboratory studying what happens to fields and particles when a spacecraft goes through a shock wave in space
  • An IT systems analyst working with advanced simulation tools in the flight control room where computers monitor and control aspects of the spacecraft


This article was kindly written by Laura Thomas. For more information see 

The image within this article is courtesy of NASA/JP- Caltech