Shooting for the stars

Physics alumnus Joshua Rippon’s childhood fascination with the Universe has led to a dream job with Rocket Lab where he can indulge his passion for all things space.

Joshua Rippon. Photo: Rocket Lab
Joshua Rippon. Photo: Rocket Lab

I am motivated by helping the people around me become better versions of themselves, so I see myself moving towards leadership and management.

Joshua Rippon

“I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN fascinated by the Universe and everything in it. I remember watching documentaries as a child about black holes, space travel, supernovae, string theory, and life on other planets, and I always wanted to find out more. I chose to study physics to follow this passion of mine.”

It was a choice Joshua has never regretted. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics, followed by a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Physics, and thoroughly enjoyed his time at university.

There were two things he enjoyed most about studying physics. The first was learning a new idea or concept that changed the way he saw the world. The second was being able to share that information with his classmates, or the students that he tutored, and seeing their faces light up.

Where have you been working since you graduated?

Straight after graduating in 2016 I moved to London with my partner to work and travel. I had a number of jobs: I was a teaching assistant at a high school; I worked at a company called Kiwi Movers where I moved people’s furniture; and I worked as a software developer at a data analytics company. I moved back to New Zealand a year ago and then got a job as a software engineer at Rocket Lab.

What do you do in your current role at Rocket Lab?

I am part of the business automation team using web and cloud technology to provide internal tooling for the company. Our tools are used for mission management, production, launch operations and vehicle design.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

Rocket Lab is rare in the space industry in that we’ve achieved 100 percent mission success for our customers – in short, that means none of our missions have ever failed. I’ve been part of six of those successful launches during my time at Rocket Lab, and it’s an amazing feeling to know that I have played a part in that success.

Where do you see your career heading? What else would you like to achieve?

I am motivated by helping the people around me become better versions of themselves, so I see myself moving towards leadership and management. I would also like to fulfill my childhood dream of going to space! The New Zealand space industry has really taken off recently (excuse the pun!).

Where do you see it heading in the future – what opportunities do you think will come up?

I am optimistic about the future of the New Zealand space industry. I think that we will see many more aerospace companies sprouting up off the back of Rocket Lab’s success. Now people realise that it is possible to work in the space industry in New Zealand, I think we will see an ecosystem of companies and organisations working together to explore new frontiers in space.

What kind of impact do you hope your work will have?

At Rocket Lab, we are working on increasing our launch frequency. Our motto is, “we open up access to space to improve life on earth”, and increasing our launch frequency and the opportunities to get into orbit for small satellite operators is key to this.

Being part of the business automation team means I can help achieve this goal by increasing efficiency and reducing costs across all of Rocket Lab’s teams, and I hope my work will help us get to space more quickly, easily and reliably.

What drives you?

Helping people and teams learn, grow, and achieve their goals.

Finally, tell us something about yourself that we can’t learn by Googling you!

I can rap the first verse of “It was a good day” by Ice Cube!


This article appears in the December 2019 edition of inSCight, the print magazine for Faculty of Science alumni. View more articles from inSCight.

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