A new club at Penn centered around aerospace business hopes to educate and connect individuals interested in the aerospace industry.
WUAC Aerospace Club was founded by rising Wharton sophomore Ethan Markwalter in spring 2021 with the goal of "explore[ing] business principles via the aerospace domain." With connections to the Wharton Aerospace Community, an alumni group for aerospace experts, WUAC aims to prepare its members for a career in aerospace business.
WUAC is made up of various divisions, one of which is dedicated to space law and policy, focusing on how the government can fund space activities and what laws in space can look like. The club also has an equity and investment group, a consulting group, and a design lab.
Markwalter said that he believes now is the time to turn towards space business.
“The space industry is going to be so big,” he said. “[For example] the car industry is so big now that 75% of the jobs aren't even engineers anymore. They're just the business things that go into it and the law stuff, [and] everything like that. That’s going to happen in space.”
According to WUAC member and rising Engineering sophomore Helen Lortie, there is an important distinction between the current business of the space industry and the focus on how humanity will live in space. Space travel is for “all of humanity,” she says. “The idea of what humanity can achieve.”
Although the organization seeks official Wharton recognition and is composed of at least 50% Wharton students, many Penn undergraduates in other colleges have joined as well. Markwalter said that the organization welcomes students from all colleges at Penn because "there is room to grow.”
In spring 2021, WUAC hosted a case competition in which teams were given a scenario from the time period just after the United States had landed on the moon. The teams were asked to design a proposal to present to a panel of industry experts, including 1988 College and 1998 Wharton graduate Ellen Chang, the head of the startup company H4XLabs, and Harry Partridge, NASA’s Ames Center Chief Technologist.
WUAC has held all of its meetings, including the case competition, virtually. As such, the group is looking forward to an in-person presence on campus next semester, Markwalter said.
WUAC was founded amid a backdrop of billionaires racing against one another to launch their own rockets into space. Multibillionaire Richard Branson, Amazon founder and the richest man in the world Jeff Bezos, and 1997 College and Wharton graduate Elon Musk continue to develop and launch rockets into space with their private space companies.
“I’m entertained by it,” Lortie said. “But I feel like there are better things that could be done with that money.”
Markwalter regarded the billionaire space race as a way for space travel to become more mainstream and more affordable, citing the history of air travel.
“Airlines were super expensive in the beginning too,” he said. “[But they] started dropping costs as more and more people went up.”