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The Dragon’s entrails

PLASMA 6 article

On 7th March 2020, the CRS20 Dragon cargo capsule was launched for the last time, propelled by the Falcon 9 on its way to the International Space Station. JP, a Fluid Systems Prop Technician at SpaceX, was part of this mission. The PLASMA team met JP during our stay in LA atop the ACE Hotel in Downtown to chat about sustainability, his daily work at Space X and how sci-fi has inspired his career.

PLASMA: We just have to ask… How is it to work at Space X?

JP: When I started it wasn’t as popular because we were not doing as much! We were launching about 3 rockets a year, if we were lucky. Now we’re launching about 20 a year plus all the R&D stuff like the starship and whatnot. Now that it’s a lot more well-known it’s kind of cool cause people recognise you, plus there’s a bit of stigma from other aerospace companies as they work entirely different from what we do; they require an entirely different mentality that you don’t have here. In fact, Elon is adamant about not having any of the old aerospace bad habits. We work a lot of hours, do cool shit, celebrate… We’re very lucky that our department gets a bit more money and we get really cool venues when we do parties! You do have to go to work the next day though…

PLASMA magazine 6 interview with JP

PLASMA: What’s your daily job at Space X?

JP: My job is to build the organs, the heart, the lings, the stomach of the Dragon… that’s what I do!

I work for the Dragon Prop Assembly department who build the fluid systems. Essentially what we do is build the organs of the Dragon, and then we weld them and assemble everything together. There’s a lot of testing, engineering… Once that’s done it gets put together with the pressure section, where the astronauts will travel.

PLASMA: What motivates you to do your work every day?

JP: The fact that I’m passionate about it! Sometimes I feel like a woodworker, building all these parts and when you finish and touch up all the details the work is entirely you! It feels great to see where the thing you’ve made is going to go, what it’s going to do… you take credit for it! It’s very stressful and it requires a lot from you, especially now that we are sending people up to space they require a lot in terms of detail and quality of work. A lot of people end up dropping out, but I’ve been there 7 years, so I know what’s coming! It’s like being with a lover, sometimes you love it, sometimes you don’t!

PLASMA: Did you always know you wanted to work in aerospace?

JP: I worked as a mechanic before but yes, I always knew I wanted to be part of the aerospace industry. I wanted something a lot more substantial, and I felt like aerospace was the place to be, but it’s super hard to get an aerospace job in California! When I was doing my old job, I was contacted by Space X and sent my resume. Then I did an interview, some tests… I only believed it when I was inside the building with the tools in hand!

PLASMA: What else do you do outside of work?

JP: I play the guitar with some friends, I never play in a band but you apply the same care, the same amount of detail that you would put to something like learning an instrument is the kind of detail you want to put into building a spaceship. Both in a personal and an aesthetic way… Seeing your work being put together is the same thing as seeing a song being put together!

PLASMA: Did you like sci-fi growing up?

JP: Yes! I was very inspired by sci-fi growing up. As a big fan of movies like Star Wars, being part of building a spaceship or trying to make it happen is one of the things that keeps me going. It’s like a dream come true… And I even got to meet Harrison Ford! One day me and my friend heard someone inside the rocket; so, my friend yelled ‘Hey what are you doing?’ and I stuck my head out and it was Harrison Ford!

PLASMA: Do you think that sci-fi has somehow inspired current scientific research?

JP: I think so! I think sic-fi is a thing that puts the idea into people’s consciousness. Somebody had to first imagine travelling to space and writing a story about it for people to take that information and be amazed by it. I think sci-fi is essential to our growth, because we don’t really identify with fantasy anymore. We are not really at that stage where talking about queens and princes is appropriate anymore. Talking about having robots, and going to space… I think that’s the next step. And I think that’s essential because it gives you that idea, it puts that inspiration in people. Just like Star Wars, Star Wars doesn’t preach, they don’t tell you what happens when you press the button they just press it and you see it happen! They make it completely normal and it’s possible if you imagine it.

PLASMA: What do you think the future of sustainability in aerospace will look like?

JP: If we focus only on one thing we are going to do it at the service of the other. If we develop the technology to develop on another, perhaps hostile planet, maybe we could use that here to adapt to climate change on Earth. And the other way around, if we focus on developing technologies to survive on Earth that might help us inhabit another planet. I’d say it’s important to invest in both because they would help each other a lot.

PLASMA magazine 6

full article in PLASMA 6

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