By Martie Thompson
Andrew Rush has seen a lot of changes in St. Johns County since he first moved here as a fifth grader about 20 years ago — yet some things haven’t changed. Now a graduate of St. Johns County schools (Cunningham Creek, Switzerland Point and Bartram Trail), the University of North Florida, and Stetson University School of Law, Rush lives with his wife, Stephanie, and two young boys (with another on the way this summer) in Fruit Cove, where his boys will also attend St. Johns County schools.
“I figure it worked the first time,” Rush said.
Rush is now president and CEO of Made in Space, a national company which is the first manufacturing company to operate in space. His journey was circuitous, but in hindsight, shouldn’t be surprising. Throughout his life he has held leadership positions, sought camaraderie and displayed entrepreneurial tendencies — all with a passion for science and a fascination with space.
As a French horn musician and ultimately the drum major in the Spirit of Bartram band, Rush said he learned leadership skills at a young age.
“Band was amazing. We doubled the musicians during the four years I was involved and the camaraderie was part of the reason,” Rush said. “I have tried to translate that camaraderie into what we do now at Made in Space.”
After graduation, Rush was accepted at the University of California at Berkeley for his chosen field of study, physics. He attributes his love of science to his mom, who is a chemistry teacher at Creekside High School.
“I was at Berkeley for about a year and a half and then came back here to finish my degree at the University of North Florida,” Rush said. “Let’s just say I learned the importance of doing my work after that.”
He continued his studies in physics, working in the Solid State Research Lab his final two years at UNF. His entrepreneurial side came out around this time; he maintained a flea market business, selling trinkets and t-shirts, at the Pecan Park Flea Market for extra spending money. He graduated from UNF in 2009 with a bachelor’s in physics. He took the advice of a professor who told him that for those who were interested in both science and business, as he was, patent law was a good career choice. So he went to Stetson Law School. He became interested in space after his first job in the aerospace industry with Masten Space. Upon receiving his juris doctor, he culled his many interests and practiced patent law in Jacksonville for three years.
“I focused my law practice on space and 3-D printing,” Rush said.
One of his clients at this time was Made in Space. As he became more and more familiar with the company, he became general counsel and helped with strategy for the business. A couple of the company’s founders soon decided to move on and start a new company and Rush was asked to run Made in Space in 2015.
“I asked my wife what she thought of this idea and she said, ‘You have to do this,’” Rush said.
He closed his law practice and made the switch to a full time career in the space industry. Made in Space has offices in Jacksonville, Huntsville, Ala., and Silicon Valley.
Rush describes Made in Space as a company dedicated to expanding space by manufacturing the tools and equipment needed for humans to build away from our planet. He said if humans are going to the moon or to settle on Mars, they will need to be able to manufacture tools in space and that is exactly what Made in Space offers. The company has two 3-D printers on the International Space Station: one is a demonstrator and one is owned and operated by Made in Space and is presently manufacturing items for the company.
“Just last night we manufactured a radiation cover for a sensor on a BEAM (expandable capsule) module,” Rush said.
The company provides 3-D printing in space for government entities such as NASA, as well as for commercial customers who need trusses, booms and deflectors manufactured in space. Additionally, they are learning that there are unique and beneficial properties for some items manufactured in space, such as an improved optical fiber that is valuable to the telecommunications industry back here on earth.
“We utilize our unique expertise in manufacturing in space and apply it to transformative products on earth. It is cool from a business perspective because we are expanding the way we are using space … we are industrializing space,” Rush said.
Photo courtesy Andrew Rush
Andrew Rush participated in parabolic flight tests last year for Made in Space.