How to Become an Aerospace Launch Site Manager

15th Aug 2022
How to Become an Aerospace Launch Site Manager

In a growing space industry, there are some incredibly niche jobs becoming available, and one of them is being a Launch Site Manager. Even as the industry becomes bigger, with plans for Spaceport Cornwall as well as Space Hub Sutherland and Shetland Space Centre, there will still only be a handful of these roles within the UK. However, there are likewise few qualified candidates.

As you would expect, a high level of education is required in order to get anywhere near this role, as well as a potential Catch-22 of needing to gain a foot in the door within a space company, but also the requisite management experience if you’re going to be in control of the site.


As with a lot of jobs in this evolving industry, education is crucial. The majority of people working in the industry in the UK, as elsewhere, have a degree in a STEM subject.

Through the school system and into A-Levels, subjects such as Maths, Statistics, Physics, and Computer Sciences will usually serve you well if you plan to go into the aerospace industry. However, a focus on the practical elements including management will be very helpful for those who want to work on site launches.

A-list Universities

When it comes to being accepted into a university, high grades are virtually always a prerequisite. For example, the BEng Aerospace Engineering course at Manchester University is a brilliant option for those with aspirations in the UK space industry. A typical offer is predicated on getting three A-grades at A-level.

That course is one of a number that can support students getting into the industry. The £400m purpose built engineering and material science building, MECD, is a state-of-the-art facility in which to learn about the space industry and gain practical experience.

Other universities offering degree courses in aerospace subjects include:

  • Imperial College London
  • Loughborough University
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Bath
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Strathclyde
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Surrey

There are a variety of programmes that can help people to get into the industry. Anything you can do that will look good on a CV is likely to help you to stand out in a competitive job market.

Nuffield Research Placements are open to Year 12 students. This can be a great way to gain experience. It adds an impressive section to your CV, and builds your confidence before a career in a scientific field. 

The “Space Placements in Industry (SPIN)” programme helps people to find work placements. Also, educational establishments can be one of the greatest ways to seek out new opportunities beyond study, too. 

LAUNCH UK explains that the Spaceport Cornwall programme is “working closely with schools, colleges, and higher education institutions across the region to build the skills base to meet the needs of the space industry.”

Aerospace Launch Site Manager Job Requirements

Every aerospace company works in a slightly different way, and in the UK this is a fledgling industry. There are few examples of people already in this job. Thus, the exact job specification depends on the company advertising the role when it becomes available.

Based on the current state of the space industry, and the roles available through companies abroad such as SpaceX and Virgin Orbit, as well as Skyrora, job roles are likely to include:

  • Setting up, assembling and testing hardware for flights
  • Managing teams of people including aerospace engineers
  • Troubleshooting and repairing equipment
  • Staying in line with policy, including government health and safety guidance
  • Clearly communicating and managing through regular meetings on site, liaising with Test Engineers, Technicians, Health and Safety Officers and Electrical Engineers
  • Working with potentially hazardous systems and materials including cryogenic, flammable, and corrosive
  • Technical experience working with complicated and advanced pneumatic and hydraulic systems

There are more examples of skills that the companies launching rockets and satellites may require. As you can see, it is demanding, and it can be difficult to gain the experience needed.

This is why the majority of people enter these roles later in their career. A new graduate is unlikely to go straight into a site manager role. First they must have gained experience within the company, as well as the opportunity to manage within their role.

Skills to Become a Launch Site Manager

As well as some of the obvious vocational engineering skills you will gain through your education and experience within an associate-level job at a space company (where most graduates start) there are some “soft” skills that can help you to become a site manager.

These include:

  • Communication skills. Managing people is no easy task, and when hazardous materials and potentially dangerous site launches are on the line, it is even more crucial that the person managing things can keep everybody in the loop.
  • Dealing with pressure. Things can go wrong, and it can happen quickly. A manager needs to adapt and make the right decisions even in a pressing environment. 
  • Organisation skills. Timings, resources, budgets. It’s important to be organised if you are going to manage a project effectively, especially when that project is getting something into orbit.

The Final Verdict

Demand in the UK is undeniably growing. If your ambition is to work in the space industry, and you have the drive and determination to gain the qualifications and put the time and hard work in, becoming a site manager is a great ambition to set out for a career.

Ordinarily, working as a Site Engineer and working under a Site Manager will come first, and you may become a Senior Engineer before finally becoming a Manager, but there has never been a better time to pursue your dreams. Get ready for liftoff!

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