AFAM: Hello, Corentin, and thank you for this interview. You are a mechanical engineer at Blue Origin. Please tell us more about your job and the company you work for.
Corentin: Sure, Blue Origin was founded in 2000 by Jeff Bezos with the vision to enable a future where millions of people are living and working in space to benefit Earth. Blue believes we must protect Earth by moving heavy industries that stress our planet into space, and enable humanity to access space to expand, explore, and find new energy and material resources.
At Blue, I am specifically involved in the New Glenn program. New Glenn is a heavy-lift orbital launch vehicle. It is a massive rocket! Designed for operational reusability from the beginning, New Glenn is powered by seven of Blue Origin’s BE-4 engines, the world's most powerful liquid oxygen/liquefied natural gas engine. Together, the seven engines generate up to 3.85 million pounds of thrust, or roughly half the size of Saturn V’s thrust.
In this program, I am responsible for the design, procurement and commissioning of multiple pieces of GSE (Ground Support Equipment) enabling the operations of New Glenn, from stage integration to roll-out and launch at the pad.
AFAM: Does Blue Origin’s mission inspire you and in what way? How is its mission different from your previous company’s one (note: Corentin worked for TechnipFMC in the oil and energy sector prior to joining Blue Origin)?
Corentin: Blue is very unique in the sense that it has a single founder and owner. We do not answer to shareholders that might push for short term results that may sacrifice the long-term outcomes or are as dependent on funding held by the government that is affected by politics. We are doing new things that have to be figured out from scratch and there is a true mission and sense of belonging with the team. In my previous company, though there were similarities in the nature of the work, like working on huge and critical pieces of equipment, at TechnipFMC, we had an established business model and it was purely about turning a profit for the company rather than working with a long term vision in mind.
AFAM: what do you like the most about your job?
Corentin: I love how multidisciplinary my job requires me to be. I get to work with vehicle design teams, operations, facility, procurement and many of our subcontractors and partners. The stakes are high, and we must constantly challenge ourselves to simplify to make well-understood and safe solutions that lower the cost of entry to space. Blue is also a company that has grown a lot in the last few years so the work is also very dynamic as we must evolve our processes and sometimes create them to be more efficient at what we do.
AFAM: what do you find the most challenging about your job?
Corentin: Technically, the fact that we operate in a brutal and unforgiving environment and there is no room for error. Organizationally, Blue has been growing fast so you must be willing to remain agile and flexible as the tools & processes that used to work in R&D mode may not scale when you transition into production mode.
AFAM: what do you enjoy doing the most in your spare time?
Corentin: Lots of outdoor stuff, at this time, I do quite a bit of road cycling, then when the spring snow melts off in the mountain around late June, I’ll be doing a lot more backpacking and hiking. The Pacific Northwest region has a ton to offer for any outdoor enthusiast!
AFAM: how did being a gadzarts help you in your professional career?
Corentin: Oh, that’s a hard one, because there are some many things but if I had to keep it to the top 3, I would say:
1) International exposure, whether that’s the large network of alumni that are all over the world or the many options to study in foreign universities
2) The curriculum is not based on pure theory but as a Gadz’arts, we get a lot of practical experience in workshop and labs that enable us to appreciate what it takes to build something. It is a truly unique opportunity and would recommend to any Gadz currently studying to take advantage ‘Ateliers and Labos’ as much as possible. This is even more of an differentiator in the US job market where extracurricular activities are very important
3) Last but not least, the culture of humility and camaraderie that is built. I would say that Gadz have learnt to put their ego aside and stay real. This is particularly appreciated in a multidisciplinary environment where you need to earn the trust of others to make progress.
AFAM: every year we have several students looking for internships in the US in the aerospace industry. What piece of advice can you give them?
Corentin: One, be attentive to ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations)requirements in jobs posting, this will most likely be the first thing that will block you as there are laws in the USA that restrict certain positions (especially related to defense and space) to US citizens and permanent residents. Instead, look into civil and commercial aerospace companies which do not fall under the purview of ITAR regulations.
Two, I would say that there are multiple roads to get to a point so keep your eyes open. I am an example of it, I started in oil & gas yet was able to gain the skills and experience that would transfer to the aerospace industry. Talk to professionals in the field, you’ll be surprised how diverse the industry and jobs can be.
AFAM: Thank you!
Photo: courtesy of Corentin
Other interviews in the "Ad Astra: dreams and reality of aerospace engineering" series:
Interview with Laurène Rokvam (Bo 210)
Interview with Jean-Christophe Boulon (Me 213)