It’s a Man’s World……Is it?


It’s a Man’s World……Is it?

The aerospace industry has long been seen as the preserve of men and, let’s be honest, when we think of engineering, the majority of us will assume that it is men behind the amazing technology that is being produced. But this assumption is wrong, and for some years now women in aerospace industry jobs have been on the increase – and this is great news. The problem is that it is nowhere near enough progress.

We are fairly used to seeing females in positions such as marketing for space and satellite companies. This is seen as a much more ‘female role’, if there is such a thing. However, we now have women filling top positions in the industry. Look at Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX. She is an integral part of the most-watched space company in the world. There are many others such as Kay Sears, VP of Strategy and Business Development for Space Systems Business area at Lockheed Martin, also Mary Cotton, CEO of VT iDirect.

Women are making their mark in this exciting and complex industry, although this is a very slow process. The statistics speak for themselves. Let’s look at the UK market alone. According to the Women’s Engineering Society, just 9 percent of the engineering workforce is female. The UK has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, at less than 10 percent, whilst Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30 percent. The proportion of young women studying engineering and physics has remained virtually static since 2012. Staggeringly, nearly 100,000 female STEM graduates were unemployed or economically inactive, so enabling women to reach their full potential in work could add as much as $28 trillion to annual GDP in 2025.

It makes stark reading doesn’t it?

As specialists in space industry recruitment, Nebula is extremely focused on redressing this balance. We work extremely hard for all our clients to make sure we find the job that is the right fit for them. This makes for a much happier and more fulfilled workforce! We recognise that the role of women in space is extremely important. There are a huge number of highly experienced female engineers who are qualified in a vast range of areas: robotics, satellite communications, remote sensing, human space flight and many other aspects. We believe that industry recruitment must be more passionate about broadening opportunities for women in space and to increase their visibility across the industry. Yes, encouraging young women into STEM and engineering courses is vital but once the qualifications are gained, the recruitment industry must be dedicated to the role of women in space by offering the best opportunities possible.

Whether you are a female or a male engineer struggling to find the right career move, get in touch. We are here to listen, to help and to help you to land your dream job.



European citizens have their say on space

The first ever Citizen’s Debate on Space for Europe is slated to be held on 10 September and it is an unprecedented event that highlights one very important thing – that space is for everyone. The point we should probably be debating is why it has taken so long.

At the event, the opportunity to learn, debate and participate will be offered to around 2000 citizens. In this very positive move, the ESA Member States will ask their people what their priorities are on all aspects of current and future space programmes, and will gain a different perspective on what really matters to the everyday person in space. The whole event will take place simultaneously across all of the 22 ESA Member States, with around 100 people per state at various locations. Those selected will have been chosen according to socio-demographic criteria, giving a good cross section of society a say.

Space, for some, is not a priority and there is the belief that vast amounts of money are wasted on space projects that will not benefit people in their everyday lives. It is initiatives such as this that can help to bring these views out into the open and to debate them. For many of those that think that space doesn’t matter, it is also a chance to point out that space affects their daily lives far, far more than they think – and will do so even more in the future.

Enabling the laypeople to have their say is critical and I for one applaud ESA for making this debate on space possible. People do not want to feel alienated from what is going on in their country’s space agencies and yet many feel utterly detached when they should be engaged. Space agencies across the world should be doing the same thing and encouraging their citizens to look at the positives – and negatives – of their space programmes, and to air their views on how space programmes should be shaped going forward. This is healthy dialogue, and it should be encouraged. It is this kind of talking that will determine where we go in space in the future.

ESA Director General Jan Woerner said: “Spaceflight, space science, exploration, Earth observation, telecommunication, satellite navigation, space technology and innovation can all help respond to societal challenges and be a source of inspiration to future generations. European citizens can help us better assess our priorities”.

Never a truer word was spoken.

Join the debate:

UK National Propulsion Test Facility

Hot on the heels of UK Moog-UK’s success on the Juno project with their Leros 1b engine, an announcement has been made by the UK Space Agency that promises an investment of £4.12 million in a National Propulsion Test Facility.

This is fantastic news for the UK space industry that has been getting some extremely positive press over recent weeks. The facility is set to be located at Westcott in Buckinghamshire and it will open the door for UK companies and academia to test and develop space propulsion engines. It will be built on existing facilities and a strong heritage in rocketry research. The new facility will result in a new vacuum facility at the site, an upgrade to an existing industry owned test chamber and open the facilities for the community to use.

It is this kind of rejuvenation and improvement that we need to see more of in the UK space sector. Encouraging investment will help to preserve and improve upon the UK’s standing as an important space player and as a key contributor to international missions. Coupled with this investment, Buckingham Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) are investing their own funds into an Innovation/Incubation Centre and a skills training hub that will support the space sector and encourage local talent and young people to pursue their ambitions.

Also announced last week was UK government’s feasibility study into a commercial spaceport. Five industrial teams that all have an interest in a potential UK spaceport have been awarded contracts to explore idea and whether it could be brought to fruition. The contracts have a value of £1.5 million and the big names involved include: Airbus Safran Launchers, Deimos Space UK, Lockheed Martin, Orbital Access associated with BAE Systems and Reaction Engines Ltd and Virgin Galactic. The results of the study should be in by November and this proposal has the potential to bring the UK to the forefront of the small satellite launch market. However, there are a plethora of regulatory hurdles, not to mention ITAR, to be cleared before any progress could theoretically be made.

However, putting all this aside, the UK is heavily engaged in space and there is undeniable potential for growth. It’s encouraging to hear that the government is backing UK space industry expansion and we look forward to seeing where this investment will lead to in the future. This is an important time in the sector’s development, and it is crucial that we are setting our stall out and underlining our potential to the rest of the world.

UK Space: Challenges Ahead

NASA is celebrating an engineering feat as the Juno probe finally arrived in Jupiter’s orbit to begin its mission that aims to find out more about the mysterious planet and how it was formed. It wasn’t just a triumph for NASA, though. Moog, based in Westcott, Buckinghamshire, UK, played an absolutely critical part in the programme. If it wasn’t for their Leros 1b engine, Juno would not have been able to slow itself down in order to enter Jupiter’s orbit.

It’s yet another demonstration of how the UK is excelling in space. The UK space industry is on a growth trajectory and is truly making its mark on the global space stage. It is a vibrant and fascinating sector and has massive potential. However, making the most of grass roots talent and of the first class expertise and facilities that the UK offers will require more funding dedicated to space. A report released in November 2015 by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, found that the UK space industry could be worth £40 billion but ‘work is needed to boost skills and relax regulation’.

Then, Brexit happened.

The outcome of the vote came as a huge surprise to the nation and now questions are hanging over the UK space sector and the impact that this result will have on the UK’s standing within the global space industry. How will the UK’s changing relationship with the EU affect current and future space programmes?

The UK Space Agency came out post-Brexit and explained that focus needed to be centred on continued investment in conjunction with the private sector. This is going to be key if the UK is set to maintain its growth trajectory. This investment would help to create a ‘level playing field in terms of competitiveness with other nations.’

The UK’s relationship with ESA should remain unaffected. There are currently three Member States that are non-EU members (Norway, Switzerland and Canada). So, fingers crossed, the excellent work with ESA should continue.

The Horizons 2020 initiative has been hugely instrumental in enabling tech start-ups in the UK space arena and supports research and innovation, all funded by the EU. The UK Space Agency has asked the government to seek bilateral agreements on the programmes as they are vital in enabling the future of UK space in a plethora of areas.

The UK has a huge amount to shout about in terms of space talent and capability. However, bringing this talent through and ensuring that the government makes space a priority given all the other challenges it faces, will underpin the future.

Like the UK space industry, Nebula Space is optimistic that a positive outcome can be found that enables space talent from outside the UK to continue to come and work in the country and for UK space engineers to retain the freedom and opportunity to work in Europe. The UK and Europe need to retain working in partnership, to make this happen.

Development of quality trade agreements with Europe and the rest of the world will help move UK space forward successfully. The UK has come a long way. Now we need to secure its future.

Space Engineers – the next generation

The highlight in the Nebula office for 2015 was most certainly Major Tim Peake finally blasting off to the International Space Station.  What a Christmas present indeed. Here in the UK, the nation was gripped by the live broadcast with a level of interest in space that was only equaled by the first manned shuttle launch, Columbia on 12th April 1981.

Many of the UK schools had set up screens so that the pupils could witness Tim’s launch live in the classroom or even on large screens in the main halls. The build up to this big space event has been a huge talking point in lessons, with plenty of prototype spacecraft in all stages of development constructed by the next generation of budding young engineers.

Of course the release of the first Star Wars movie (Episode 4, A New Hope) in 1977 also really brought space to life for many adults and children around the world and once again now episode 7 is here at last – a must see for any space fan just to see the Millennium Falcon skim across the sea prior to launching into the dark depths of space.

Following the successful vertical landing of the Space X Falcon 9 first stage booster in December, which part shares the same name as that very famous Star Wars freighter, the ablity for a spacecraft to fly in these extreme conditions is moving closer every day. Let us see what the future holds for 2016.

Europe in Space

2014 was the 50th anniversary of Europe’s entry into the ‘space race’. Today, over 35,000 people are employed directly by the space industry across Europe.

Europe’s participation in the market is spearheaded by ESA. In 1964 two organisations were established:

  • The European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO)
  • The European Space Research Organisation (ESRO)

Just over ten years later, these two organisations were replaced by the European Space Agency (ESA) as the vehicle to drive innovation and increased European cooperation.

ESA has played an important part in establishing independent European access to space itself and to the technological and commercial opportunities it offers. The forecast for huge growth in European space activity will drive forward from this foundation and maintain Europe’s status at the forefront of space research and operation.

ESA has an annual budget of some £5.5 billion. This Europe-wide governmental funding stimulates both government and commercial markets, like the growth in satellite deployment for example, where all sectors have an interest.

The EU market acts as a model for the future of space industry programme staffing: assembly of the right blend of knowledge and experience with teams comprising multinational participants.

The space industry is research-led, requiring the brightest people from an array of specialist domains. The expanding market is likely to lead to skills shortages, at least in the short term, as the supply of qualified people expands to meet demand.

Line and HR managers will need to plan effectively if they are to attract and retain the permanent and temporary workers required for success and to maintain competitive advantage.

Worldwide growth

The space industry is truly global: many projects are multinational in the planning development, launch and operation and new countries are continuously entering the market.

The space market is big. The largest player in the market is the USA: NASA employs 18,000 people directly and US industry supports a further 350,000 throughout the supply chain.  This equates to annual revenues of over $60 billion.

The space industry is evolving. December 2013 saw Bolivia become the latest member of the space family as it launched its first communications satellite. India, China and others are increasing their focus on space.

Governments across the globe are investing growing amounts in satellites and other space-based technologies. In addition to facilitating governmental requirements, this investment is designed to boost local high-tech industries to stimulate industrial performance and international competitiveness.

Commercial investment in space technologies – particularly satellites – is growing as the world becomes increasingly technology driven.

The expanding and increasingly global nature of the space industry provides increased opportunity for employees to seek career development via the most interesting and challenging programmes, wherever they are.

This provides both benefits and challenges for organisations looking to recruit. On the plus side, the potential of taking on people with wider and more up-to-the minute experience is a desirable one.  On the downside this means a more mobile employee base and increasing difficulties in attracting and retaining the talent needed.

Recruitment and HR policies will evolve to manage this evolving situation, and keeping a close eye on the talent market will form an important element of programme and organisation planning.

The rise of UK space engineering

The UK is the second largest player in space engineering, after the USA. A leader in a range of technologies, including communications/weather satellites, planet vehicles and nuclear space batteries, the sector currently employs over 30,000 people directly and delivers annual revenues in excess of £10 billion for the UK economy.

The UK Government recognises both the importance of a large and rapidly growing market sector and the strong position that the UK holds within it.

The Government announced in 2012 that, through the UK Space Agency, it plans to invest £1.2 billion in some of Europe’s largest and most lucrative space projects. These investments will strengthen the UK’s role across a range of disciplines and, it is estimated, will contribute some £1 billion of orders per year for UK businesses.

On 18 March 2013, the UK Government announced it will provide a further £2 billion of funding to the aviation industry over a seven year period.  It is forecast that this investment will contribute to the creation of an additional 115,000 jobs.

A characteristic of the space and aviation sectors is their large-scale need for a broad range of high-value skills and disciplines, including engineering, science, project management, production, service, IT, training and finance. The aircraft sector will be competing for many of the same candidates as the space sector.

Nebula Space sees a changing employment market over the next 10 years as the market adapts to significant, ongoing growth, new market entrants and a more mobile workforce.