Crazy Times

Some on your are wondering, where’s Rick? Is he gone? Does he still do aerospace stuff?

I’m still around. In fact, I’m involved with too many initiatives.

I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret. I have a day job, but it’s not in the aerospace industry. I work with embedded computing, the Linux operating system, and toolchains that generate machine code. If you understood that last sentence, then you probably have a good idea of the domain that I work in. I do these because these are important building blocks for future work in flight vehicle telemetry and control, autonomous systems, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

In my case, I’m not primarily in the developer role, but rather building up and maintaining the test automation. I configure boards and storage devices, build new kernels, install Linux distributions, look for platform aberrations, etc. Often these are used as build slaves to someone’s build master.

Beyond the day job, I have too many after-hours initiatives. I’m going try to briefly list them here without divulging prorietary information. (What possessed me? How in the world do I do all those things?)

  • Nanoelectronics start-up—I’m on the ground floor of a technology start-up for a different kind of transistor. If it works, it will have a major impact on future space avionics systems, and instrumentation that goes into high radiation environments.
  • Small UAV (drone) development—I’m a strategist/contributor for a small aerospace technology company in developing drones for special applications. Part of my role is reality checking the compute workload for certain types of missions. I examine the computing elements of existing drones.
  • CubeCab—This is a company that wants to launch individual CubeSats into Earth orbit. In 2014, we won the NewSpace Business Plan Competition. My focus is on the avionics side. I’ve had the good fortune to work alongside very smart propulsion people. Getting a vehicle from design to bending metal to actual commercial launch is a hard road to travel. But we’re still on that road.
  • Silicon Valley Space Center—I’m the Communications and DevOps Director. This is really two different roles merged into one. Communications involves getting the message out to SVSC friends and members. This goes into e-mail, onto the SVSC website, and into Facebook. DevOps is a contraction for “development operations”. This is a cross between IT operations, installing new versions of software, and developing a new platform for emerging needs. I also host a series of “TechTalks” by small space startups who have built satellites, propulsion systems, communication and tracking networks, etc. These have mostly taken place at the Hacker Dojo.
  • Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society—ERPS is involved in developing liquid propellant rockets. Like many other rocket groups formed in the 1990s, their vision is cheap access to space. Their first rocket was launched in 2003; some of the people involved in that launch have gone on to important industry roles. My original role was simply to host monthly meetings over at the Hacker Dojo. In May 2017, to my shock, I was elected to be President of ERPS. I decided that if they were going to do this to me, I was going to introduce some of my own initiatives. :-) So far, reception has been reasonably positive.
  • ASTRA—I might as well confess to it. ASTRA was conceived with the notion of enabling rapid incremental development of technologies to reduce the cost of access to space. This means flight platforms which help to mature a technology by flying it at relatively high frequencies and low cost. Shortening development cycles reduces the overall cost of a product. It is also important to give new technologies “flight heritage”. Without this, it is very difficult to get a new part or technology accepted into missions where the stakes are higher.

So if you were wondering why you haven’t seen posts from me for many, many months, that’s why.

Clearly, this is a bit too crazy. Some people believe that in doing all this, I am managing “controlled chaos”, an essential skill for managing a successful start-up. Believe me, it is not by design, and some consolidation or re-prioritization is clearly in order.

As I sort through this, I will probably share a bit more about these initiatives. In most cases, there is very little published about them, and some could use more exposure while they get their own publishing platforms under control.