A day in the life of a Principal Space Architect 🚀Featured
Hi Elphas! My name is Isa. I’m an aerospace engineer at the space propulsion startup Tesseract Space. As the Principal Space Architect, I conceptualize, design, build, and test space solutions for an array of engineering products. At Tesseract we build rocket engines and their full support systems, so my products look like propulsion modules that take a customer’s spacecraft from a launch vehicle drop off (like SpaceX) to where it needs to operate. Sometimes the goal is to help a small satellite take imagery and move around low Earth orbit. Sometimes I’m designing a mega system that can take a spacecraft even further – like to the Moon or Mars. The propulsion systems scale in physical size too, some fit in your hand and some are bigger than a refrigerator. Each day and week at work looks very different. I’m guessing that has a lot to do with our startup size and fast paced iterating, and I’m curious if your days are variable, too!One of the things I love about my job is the ability to define and grow my career. Right now my job is a beautiful hybrid of product management, orbital dynamics, proposal writing, sales wrangling, chemical handling, systems engineering, ground test crew, and working in the machine shop. You know – all the usual things one does! This week is starting out heavy on the computing side for example. I’ve got a decent amount of mathematical calculations to check for a customer, and some systems engineering writing to complete for one of the products I’m managing. Then this week we have five different rocket engine tests! This means that I’ll lead the oxidizer loading procedures in the lab and work out at the test site as ground test crew for live engine firings. So. Cool.I gained my technical management and orbital dynamics skills in previous jobs and am growing those skills and building new ones daily (like machine shop confidence and chemical handling). I’ve always been a hands-on girl, so this is a good balance for me. One thing I’m really excited to learn more about is the world of fundraising and pitching. As a company we’re planning the next fundraising round so I’ve been learning all about what that “means” – like how to build a deck and understanding how investment works in general. We’re a small team now (currently seven), so I’ve been trying to help and learn as much as possible. My favorite astronaut Chris Hadfield says “focus on the journey, not on arriving at a certain destination” so I’m still not 100% sure what role I want to do when I grow up, but I’m guessing it will be blended. Startups are great for folks like me and my colleagues at Tesseract really have fostered my growth, both technically and personally.Thank you for your time! Let me know if you have any questions or want to talk about space with me. :-)Isa Peterson is an inquisitive astronautical engineer with a background in orbital mechanics, spacecraft mission design, and manufacturing. Her experience includes numerous commercial programs ranging from geostationary orbit raising, spacecraft mechanical testing, and proposal/product development. Isa loves learning, dancing, and product development. She wants to be an astronaut when she grows up.