Paul B. Huter

CEO

PBHspace, LLC

Providing innovative and cost-effective space mission design and analysis solutions.

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spacecraft spacecraft engineer space engineer space systems space mission

Latest Knowledge Board posts

Spacecraft Systems Engineering
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
What Is a Rocket Scientist?
Monday, September 19, 2016

Biography

Visit the PBHspace website.

I enjoy answering questions, but I would like to know who is asking them so that I can better understand how to address them. If you do not wish to register for an ECN account, and you do not want to pay for a session, feel free to contact me via my company. I would like to provide the best level of service to individuals and companies, and I feel that anonymous questions do not give me the opportunity to provide that service. Thank you for your understanding.
 
 

Experience

CEO

PBHspace
August 2015 - present

Systems Engineer Staff

Lockheed Martin IS&GS
June 2014 - August 2015

Systems Engineer Senior

Lockheed Martin SSC
October 2012 - June 2014

M&S Engineer

MEI Company
October 2011 - August 2012

Aerospace Engineer II

SAIC
May 2009 - October 2011

Associate Safety Engineer

SAIC
July 2007 - April 2009

Lab Technician

WesTest
June 2006 - June 2007

Intern

NASA-JPL
June 2005 - August 2005

Researcher

NASA Space Grant
September 2004 - May 2005

Education

University of Houston-Clear Lake

Master's Degree
2008 - 2010

Engineering Management

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Bachelor's Degree
2002 - 2006

Aerospace Engineering

Other

Certifications

Fundamentals of Engineering

NCEES
July 2006 - present
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4/3/2017 8:52:12 AM,
Paul B. Huter replied:
Ignoring anything that would prevent me from being on the trip, I would jump at the opportunity, yes.

In my opinion, how could anyone turn down the opportunity? Is it a scary thought? Yes. But it was also a scary thought to move out of Africa 100,000 years ago and spread across the world. Going to Mars is the next logical step in human exploration, and if I could be a part of that, I would welcome the opportunity.
12/8/2016 10:32:56 AM,
Paul B. Huter replied:
Great question! I see three sets of challenges associated with this plan:

First, the technical/engineering aspect. Musk has proven again and again that SpaceX has the technical and engineering capability to pull of spaceflight. Couple that with the fact that the United States has been sending probes to Mars for over fifty years, and it is pretty obvious that from a technical/engineering standpoint, Musk and SpaceX are able to pull it off.

Second, the financial aspect. SpaceX is 100% backed by Musk's billions. That means that if he wants to pay for it, he can. Of course, SpaceX has partners working with them that are helping to reduce costs. But really, Musk could likely write a check for the whole thing himself, which virtually eliminates any problems related to financing the venture.

Third, the legal aspect. This is the most challenging to overcome. SpaceX is a U.S.-based company, and subject to the laws and regulations of the United States, specifically the Federal Aviation Administration. Will the U.S. government sign off on a potentially hazsardous manned mission to Mars five years from now? There are a number of factors at play with that, and Musk cannot control them.

I believe that Elon Musk and SpaceX have the capability and the money to pull off a manned mission to build a colony on Mars by 2022. Therefore, the only question is whether he will be allowed to do it.
9/9/2016 11:56:02 AM,
Paul B. Huter replied:

That is a great question, and one I have thought about a lot recently.

Obviously, one of the largest constraints on cheap access to space exploration is the cost of a launch. However, I think you are looking for something more than that.

What it really comes down to is this: the cost of satellites is too high. For example, a typical satellite launched today can cost upwards of $200 million. This puts satellite technology in the hands of organizations (be they government or private) that can afford that price tag. Yes, the return on that investment can be huge. But that return is only available to organizations with deep pockets. My company, PBHspace, is trying to change that with the development of the Q1 Spacecraft Bus.

But just why are satellites so expensive? Do they really need to cost $200+ million? I believe there are several contributors to that price tag, which I will outline and discuss for you (in no particular order):

First, most people who work on a satellite have very little perspective on the "big picture". They are a part of a Systems Engineering process, but they are only aware of their individual component. I wrote an article to this effect, published in Space Times, which was widely received. Now, if all the engineers who worked on a satellite had an understanding of how their components worked toward the entire system, efficiency would be increased, decreasing cost. Too often an engineer learns various engineering principles in school, and then forgets them because they are not applicable to their job, and when it comes time to work on a large project - such as a spacecraft - they have little or no understanding of how their work makes the whole project move forward. By training engineers to work as a part of the system, as opposed to the subsystem or component, a spacecraft engineering company will reap the benefits of improved efficency and lower costs, which should be passed on to the customer.

Second, the cost of engineers is too high. For example, in the first eight years of my career, my salary nearly doubled, but my capabilities as an engineer had not really doubled, only the number of years mattered. Now, I want to make money as an engineer, and I am not looking for a pay cut, but is it necessary to pay an engineer with 10 to 15 years of experience $150k+ when you could pay a fresh out of school engineer a third of that to do (about) the same job? Again, I wrote an article about innovation in the workplace, and whether it is necessary to pay for years of experience when a younger employee could do as well (or better, depending on the industry). There have been times in my career when I have looked back and said "I could have done this job at the beginning of my career, and it would have cost the company a lot less!" So, if a spacecraft engineering firm places less emphasis on years of experience, and more emphasis on the actual (innovative) capabilities of its engineers, there is a potential cost savings that would come with paying less for younger engineers who bring a lot more to the table than most firms give them credit for. Of course, experience should not be totally discounted, but engineering teams should be built with fewer experienced engineers and a larger proportion of less experienced engineers to reduce cost and, possibly, allow for more innovation. And those innovations wil benefit the engineering design, and the cost savings wil be passed on to the customer.

Third, there is a perception that satellites are expensive. Yes, they are highly complex feats of engineering that fly into a harsh environment and survive with a mission for years on end. But if you tell someone it is going to cost $200 million for their satellite, they will accept that. So the firm makes it cost $200 million for the satellite. But, and this is what PBHspace is aiming for, what if the same mission could be accomplished for $10 million? Would customers balk at that low price? Or would there be more customers?

Designing a spacecraft takes a lot. As I said, they are complex engineering marvels. But the methods of design have not really changed in the nearly 60 years that man has been orbiting artificial satellites. Things have gotten a lot more complex, yes, but the same engineering principles have held firm. And that is what needs to change. By ensuring that all members of the engineering team recognize not only the importance of their subsystem or component, but also the overall "big picture" of the engineering project, it will be possible to improve engineering efficiency and lower costs. By not relying so heavily on years of experience, and paying younger engineers with the same capabilities a lower salary, the engineering cost of the spacecraft will be reduced. And when costs are reduced, it no longer is necessary to say to the customer that the satellite will cost $200 million, and the overall perception that satellites need to cost so much can be eliminated.

Now, my discussion focussed on my perception of satellites, but the same applies to other spacecraft. There are several companies around the United States that are looking to develop spacecraft for space tourism or to supply the ISS with cargo and astronauts. There are, of course, differences between a communications satellite and a manned spacecraft, but the ideas outlined in this response still apply to some extent.

I hope I have been able to shed some light on how I perceive the costs of space exploration technology can be reduced. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask. And thank you, again, for your question.