Top 25 Most Interesting Organizations to Work for in the Space Industry*

A few days ago, I asked Hackathon Hackers (HH) this question on Facebook:

Despite my terrible pun, I received an incredible diversity and breadth of responses. I think the list deserves to be recorded for anyone interested in interning or working in a tech-related capacity for organizations in the space industry, and so I have attempted to organize it with this blog post.

Please enjoy responsibly.

Before we start, I wanted to highlight a good point that my friends, Michael Gubbels and Nikhil Srinivasan, brought up in answering my question: the term “space industry” covers a wide range of applications and fields.

As the private spaceflight industry booms, opportunities such as research and public-private partnerships grow in every sector of the global economy. Even Honeywell has ventured into the aerospace industry with navigation tools, microelectronics and more. This list covers but a small section of the vast industry, and it doesn’t even touch on those organizations doing awesome work related to astrobiology, astrophysics, and astro-[insert your interest here].

Private, public, and fictional* orgs:

  1. Blue Origin: This startup is working to lower the cost of spaceflight to enable more people to explore the solar system. They were mentioned several times by HHers as a great place to work.
  2. European Space Agency (ESA): This one is for you European-minded friends out there. The ESA was mentioned as a counterpart to NASA.
  3. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory: The JHU APL seems to have employed a fair amount of Hackathon Hackers, and everyone sang praises of their experience and research done there (if not the salary, which was reported as low by tech-intern standards).
  4. Mars One: While no one in the HH thread recommended this one in particular, but it has made a splash in recent years in its marketed mission to Mars. Has anyone worked or interned here?
  5. Moon Express: These guys want to blaze a trail to the moon to “unlock its mysteries” with the ultimate goal of enabling humans to become a multi-world species. #eighthcontinent
  6. NOAA: While this wasn’t recommended by anyone in particular, NOAA is known for doing pretty cool things related to the environment and space.
  7. Orbital Sciences: Focuses on space and launch systems. Contracts with NASA and other agencies.
  8. Planet Labs: Not only did they manage to grab, this SF-based startup likes to “design, build and operate a network of satellites that [they] call ‘Doves.’” Several HHers mentioned this one.
  9. Planetary Resources: Calls itself “The Asteroid Mining Company,” looks to mine space resources from asteroids. Yeah.
  10. Raytheon: This is a big player which has a bunch of different operations in the international aerospace and defense industry.
  11. Rocket Lab: These guys want to make space more commercially-accessible by providing low-cost and high-frequency rocket launches.
  12. The SETI Institute: This is a Mountain View-based nonprofit dedicated to research in the aerospace industry.
  13. Sierra Nevada Corporation: By their description, they are a “prime systems integrator and electronic systems provider.” Basically, they do a lot of a lot.
  14. Space Systems Loral (SSL): These guys are known for building geostationary commercial satellites and other spacecraft systems. A few different HHers recommended them.
  15. SpaceX: This is an obvious one—even the uninitiated (that includes me at the beginning of this process) have heard about Elon Musk’s startup. Some HHers have interned there, though there were repeated concerns of the work-life balance at SpaceX (60–80 hr workweeks).
  16. Spire: These guys are building small satellites dedicated to mapping neglected parts of the world.
  17. United Launch Alliance (ULA): ULA is a “50–50 joint venture between Lockheed Martin and The Boeing Company” formed to provide aerospace technology for U.S. government missions.
  18. Virgin Galactic: Sir Richard Branson wants to be the first to build the world’s first fully-operational commercial spaceline.
  19. XCOR Aerospace: Works on rocket propulsion.
  20. NASA: Of course, this one is a given. Several HHers have interned at NASA in various roles, and the program came highly recommended. Internship applicants can apply through NASA’s OSSI portal.

There are many more private companies and startups in the private space race than are listed here. And, of course, there are the defense and manufacturing industries, including but certainly not limited to (21) Northrup Grumman, (22) Boeing, (23) Lockheed Martin, and apparently even Rolls Royce.

And, well, it wouldn’t be a HH thread without a few of these thrown in:

(24) Cold War space race humor.
(25) Futurama humor.

Mackenzie is a senior at the University of Maryland, College Park. She likes to write blog posts as a form of procrastination. Provide feedback on or recommend this article only if you want to fuel her procrastination even more.

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