Mission Design Specialist in the Future Programmes Group at Astrium, Stevenage
What does your job involve?
My job is to do the initial design of future Earth Observation and Science missions, primarily for the European Space Agency. Recently I’ve worked on an Asteroid Sample Return mission called Marco Polo, a project that is working out how we could smash a small experiment into the surface of a moon of Jupiter in a penetrator probe and a new highly accurate Mars Lander.
What interested you in working in the space sector?
I always enjoyed physics at school, in particular looking at the practical applications. I chose the Physics with Space Science and Technology BSc at Leicester as it offered a good mix of core physics, instrument and spacecraft design and after that was keen to get a job in the industry making use of what I had learnt.
What do you do in a typical day?
I spend most of my time looking for the best spacecraft designs that can find out what space scientists want to know. This normally starts by investigating future science goals and instruments, then we look at all the different ways we could design each spacecraft and pick the most promising for detailed design work. The work we do is usually carried out by small teams with lots of interaction and debate over the best options.
Are there any other interesting aspects to your work, e.g. working in other locations or with other fields of science?
Working in the European Space Industry is very collaborative, there are lots of opportunities to work with companies located all over Europe so I have a lot of videoconferences and telephone calls but I do get to travel as well.
What is it about your job that fascinates or inspires you?
I get to work on lots of different types of missions, so there is always something new to learn, and new people to meet. One day I’m designing a cutting-edge Mars lander and the next it might be a telescope to find dark energy. In the early phases of designing a new spacecraft we have to work together with science teams and the European Space Agency, to create innovative solutions which is really rewarding.
Why is what you do important?
I have to know about all the different elements of a spacecraft, and how they work together. Mission and spacecraft design engineers make it possible to fly telescopes, explore the solar system, monitor the environment and even provide satellite TV.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in space?
There are lots of opportunities in space research and in industry, for all these jobs you’ll need a strong background in maths and physics or engineering.
Try and get involved in space activities early, you’ll get more of an appreciation of the different options for space careers. There are lots of student organisations and many university observatories frequently organise public events.