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6 Feb 2022 • 2 min read

Development - Bringing Outer Space UI/UX Down To Earth

What if I could be a part of helping make humans a spacefaring species? As a software engineer, there seemed to be no suitable answer that would take me closer to this big dream. That is until I noticed an open position for a Frontend Engineer at SpaceX and decided to apply. While my initial attempt to join the SpaceX team fell short, I decided not to abandon my dream. Instead, I embarked on an ambitious solo project, intending to refine my skills and reapply in the future.

Armed with determination, I began a two-month journey, all while maintaining my full-time job. My mission? To single-handedly recreate SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule’s touchscreen control and user interface.

Since access to SpaceX’s UI design work was clearly not an option, I turned to the wealth of information available online. I investigated rocket control systems and dug deep into papers discussing subjects like rocket navigation and inertial measurement units (IMUs). Next watching every SpaceX launch broadcast, finding any screenshots as I could, sometimes shown for just a split second.

Once I had enough knowledge and understood the design principles, it was time to bring theory into practice. I commenced the design of my own hardware simulator using single-board computers (SBCs). This served as the hub, hosting and integrating all components and hardware needed to reproduce the Crew Dragon’s user interface UI. This allowed me to work closely and get hands-on UX research to fine tune the interaction design.

Once you can interact with a product, you much better understand the user flow, letting you better present the information architecture. This feedback loop is essential in nailing clean graphic design and a good UX for problem solving any product design. In this case helping discover some pain points while usability testing.

After many late nights finalizing the designs, MUTANTdragon was on the launch pad. A fully interactive recreation of the SpaceX user interface on the screens inside the actual SpaceX Dragon spaceship!

MUTANTdragon reliably performs tasks just like its real-life model. Delivering real-time sensor data with a user-friendly control system, it offers an interface experience closely mirroring the actual spacecraft. From the visual design to the UX design, I think I captured the essence of the real thing. The journey from the project’s conception to its completion has been exciting and fulfilling, stretching me beyond my initial assumptions.

Are you looking to join a team that propels human progress into space? Or perhaps you seek to challenge yourself and create something extraordinary? Undertaking projects like this could bring you closer to your aspirations and goals. Remember, it’s not just about dreaming, but about taking action and getting involved in making your ambitions a reality.

Discover the full build process and interact with the live demo here: SpaceX Crew Dragon UI in 60 Days

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