Nathan Jones was unfamiliar with the satellite industry before he became a part of it. As a mechanical engineer at Lockheed Martin, he works on the company’s space projects, and says that after starting, he became aware of just how much space impacts everyday life.
“Before I joined Lockheed Martin I didn’t know much about satellites or the industry,” he recalls, “but the excitement of doing something in space drew me to the company.”
Jones has a wide range of responsibilities at Lockheed Martin. He describes his job at the most basic level as helping people solve engineering problems through virtual pathfinding.
“What that means is that I take a problem or challenge on a piece of paper and bring it to life,” he explains. “As a simple example, I can check to make sure a satellite will fit in a payload processing production area. We’ll take the program plans, spacecraft and location, and we will virtually create the satellite and the manufacturing work that needs to be done. Doing that kind of detailed virtual planning reduces risk on our programs and saves time and money.”
It was watching Lockheed Martin’s Orion human spaceflight program, as well as seeing satellite launches that excited Jones about both the challenge and potential of space. He points to a moment in high school when he witnessed his first ever satellite launch in person as the exact moment where he knew he wanted to work in space.
“There’s something unexplainable about seeing and feeling a rocket takeoff — It’s awe-inspiring. You can see photos and videos, but it’s nothing like being there in person. I was hooked from that moment on,” he reflects.
Regarding the majority of this rising generation, Jones gives a curt “no” when asked if people are excited about the satellite industry, but he quickly backs this up by highlighting lack of awareness as the main reason.
“It’s because they have no idea how satellites power and connect their lives. I’m a good example of that. Before I worked here I didn’t know that GPS satellites were responsible for the directions on my phone, and that the same was true for predicting the weather, banking and a host of other things I take for granted,” he explains.
Jones expects the satellite industry will move faster in the future, with timelines for conceptualization, manufacturing and launch shortening — changes palpably noticed across the industry today. But the most exciting developments he says are probably at this point, completely unknown.
“Honestly, the biggest changes to the industry likely haven’t even been thought of yet,” he says. “That’s the best part about working in this industry and what drew me to it.” VS