Learning From Home: Running and Building Our Propulsion Workshop in Unprecedented Times

Learning From Home: Running and Building Our Propulsion Workshop in Unprecedented Times


It’s no surprise anymore that work is different. At Benchmark, we wanted to offer an opportunity for our propulsion community to stay connected - even if that is harder with working from home. In early July,our team produced a 2.5 hour workshop entitled “Propulsion Systems 101 Interactive Workshop - A guide to selecting the right propulsion technology for your Small Satellite mission”. In my opinion, it was a great success. We wanted to share some highlights and lessons learned for anyone else wanting to build a learning experience for the community during COVID.

Make Your Content Easily Accessible to Your Audience

Our workshop focused on providing brand-agnostic summaries of different propulsion technology as well as topics that relate to spacecraft in general – like launch operations, mission design, and financial decisions impacting the economics of a mission. While these are topics in which we could have easily deep dived into the technical weeds, all our speakers focused on making their content accessible to the wider audience. This paid off greatly when it came time for the actual workshop – with over 150 attendees, we had a huge swath of experience and backgrounds ranging from college students to industry veterans.

Get the Right Contributors

Working with amazing people makes the whole process infinitely more enjoyable. At Benchmark, we had a few of our team members present. Jake Teufert presented a summary of chemical propulsion systems, I discussed the mission level impacts that drive propulsion decisions, and Chris Carella acted as our MC for the event. Learn about our team here. We roped in powerhouse colleagues to round out the conversation:

·      Grant Bonin (Spaceflight Industries) discussed launch site considerations and advice for propulsion manufactures

·      Ian Christensen (Secure World Foundation) spoke on regulatory impacts coming soon and how that might impact the propulsion and spacecraft industries

·      Jason Wallace (Phase Four, Inc) discussed brand-agnostic electric propulsion systems

·      Jared Bottoms (Kepler) enlightened us on the economic considerations for having a propulsion system for your spacecraft fleet

All these contributors brought sizable impact to our workshop, and we wouldn’t have been able to generate the kind of event we wanted without them.

Provide an Experience Worth The Audience’s Time – and Your Own

Our main goal of this workshop was to put together an event that every attendee in the audience would walk away from having learned something in an enjoyable way. Keeping the topics dynamic, brand agnostic, and light offered a safe space for the audience to learn together and ask questions without feeling like they were getting a sales pitch for three hours. In addition to the conversation and presentations, I built a mega mission design tool. This high-level criteria driven tool allows mission designers of all capability and program maturity consider different propulsion systems side by side for the mission that they are building. Toggles include total delta-V,mission life, de-orbiting preferences, and more. We hope this tool enables designers the ability to quick trade options in the future!

 And Finally - Have Fun

As cheesy as this might sound, it was really important to me(and I’m sure the rest of the team) to have some fun with this workshop. It’s always a little nerve wracking to put yourself out there in a technical workshop / presentation, but once the event started I got really excited to interface with the audience, share my tool, and have a great learning experience with our panelists. Events like our workshop really build comradery in our industry, and now more than ever it was really pleasant to have that human connection again.