2021-10-04 5 min read


Notes, 2021-10-04.

The commodification of country Western iconography has always fascinated me. Recently the term Space Cowboy, and associated iconography -- shiny cowboy hats and the like -- is everywhere I look. I see it in Lil Nas X and Kacey Musgraves pushing the edge with their sequin cowboy hats, and in my Space Cowboy coworkers singing Neon Moon for karaoke night, covered in torque stripe after a long day working at an aerospace startup in central Texas. Heck, GQ even wrote an article about Jeff Bezos wearing a cowboy hat for his first flight to the Karman Line.

Perhaps with Bezos it's as simple as “when in Texas and when also going to space, be a Space Cowboy” - it ain’t that deep. But many manifestations of Space Cowboy culture explore something greater; they’re less a call back to the past and more a vision for the future. As Spark Magazine wrote in 2019, the attitude surrounding this aesthetic is about taking a risk and boldly following it through. Space Westerns don't have established rules -- they're about living authentically, being fearless, and pushing boundaries. Space is inherently dangerous and Space Cowboys know and accept the risks. For me, my coworkers, and other fellow Space Cowboys, this is an everyday job. And I’m not gonna lie, I kinda love it.

See you later, Space Cowboy 🤠🚀

-Amreeta Duttchoudhury

The most clicked link from last week's issue (~12% of opens) was Benign Girl, a toy phone popular for circuit bending. In the Member's Slack, we've been sharing our favorite interview questions and speculating on the impact of electricity quotas rolling out across China.

Planning & Strategy.

  • I’m currently reading Test Gods, Nicholas Schmidle’s book about the early years of Virgin Galactic. In the prologue, while comparing Virgin to competitors, Schmidle writes:
But perhaps the most striking distinction boiled down to their belief in the human mind. Blue Origin and SpaceX were run by tech wizards, algorithmic geniuses who trusted in mathematical power to eliminate human error, to one day render fallibility obsolete. Virgin was analog, and despite the futurism of SpaceshipTwo’s mission, the vehicle was relatively simple -- cables and rods, no autopilot, no automation.

Now, I definitely think this book underplays the complexity of SpaceshipTwo and has an inherent negative bias. It critiques many of Virgin’s early, irreversible decisions like developing an air launch vehicle and requiring piloted flight. But I think this judgement can only be made in hindsight. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Liftoff by Eric Berger is full of nothing but praise for SpaceX's early founding decisions which similarly hinges on what we know about SpaceX’s success today.

What I like most about Test Gods is the perspective shift of how Virgin’s strategy was edgier and just generally different from most of their competitors, leaving them with a different set of obstacles - many relating to human factors and similar to those of the aviation industry.

Making & Manufacturing.

Maintenance, Repair & Operations.

Distribution & Logistics.

Inspection, Testing & Analysis.


  • Sisters with Transistors is a documentary film about the female pioneers and composers who helped popularize the Moog synthesizer in the 60s and 70s.
  • Firefly’s Alpha launch vehicle had its first ever launch in September, which I got to watch in person! While the flight didn’t make it to orbit, it was among the coolest experiences of my life. For me, the magnitude of the launch was more than just the thrust of Reaver engines and the scale of the rocket. It was also celebrating the complexities our team had overcome and the intimate spans of time I'd spent with the rocket. And, of course, the gravitas of spaceflight.

    I’ve gotten to see first flights for both a commercial airplane and launch vehicle that I’ve worked on and while most of the super special moments in life are made up of little things, sometimes, it’s the big ones 🚀. The launch was live streamed with Everyday Astronaut and you can watch it here.

Everything is bigger in Texas, water treatment edition: The world’s largest gate valve is in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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