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James Bauer

photo of James Bauer

Technical Specialist and Welding Fabricator
Armadillo Aerospace

“I started out in pre-mechanical engineering at Mountain View but one day walked past the welding lab and heard all the hammering and grinding. I walked in, intrigued, and fell in love with welding right there. After that, welding was my passion. I’ve been involved in welding and fabrication ever since and have never regretted the directions that it’s taken me.

“Right now, I’m a welder for a small aerospace start-up company. Armadillo Aerospace is a private company that builds experimental rocket-powered flight vehicles with an eye towards suborbital and eventually orbital flights. It’s what you’d have if you took NASA and made it into a modern company that’s private and profitable. Armadillo Aerospace is searching for a safe, reproducible and cost-effective means of providing space access to us all.

“I’m mainly responsible for the systems involving welding, especially the pressure vessels and rocket engines, which involve welds of the highest quality and the lightest-weight materials. There's little room for error, and the welds have to hold to extreme conditions.

“Mountain View got me started on the core of my career. After finishing the program, I was invited back to teach, and I’ve been an adjunct welding instructor there for the past 13 years. One of the things I love so much is when I see people’s eyes light up after they see what they can do in the Welding Lab.

“I’m lucky — a lot of people just get a basic education and hope they’ll find a job they can stand. With welding, I really found the thing I’m passionate about. Dewayne Roy provided a lot of inspiration to help me forge the direction I wanted to go.

“When I started college, I thought only rocket scientists could build rockets. Today rocket scientists need me to build their dreams. Mountain View’s welding program was responsible for making me what I am. It got me started in the technical aspects and provided me an overall direction for my life and career. All of the flight vehicles I’ve built are a direct result of the skills I built upon from Mountain View.”

James Bauer earned an associate degree in Welding Technology at Mountain View College. Recent projects in his job as a rocket welder include building fully autonomous rocket-powered vehicles that are self-capable of flight from takeoff to landing and building a rocket propulsion system that was grafted into a prototype airplane.

His company competed in the NASA Northrop/Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge competition of the X Prize Cup, in which more than $2 million in prizes was sponsored for flying a fully autonomous rocket that simulates lunar landing and return conditions. Armadillo Aerospace won the Level 1 challenge and took home $350,000 in 2008.