What is your name?
Where do you work and what is your role/job title?
I am retired from ESA since 2018 after 27 years working in different positions. The last one was head of engineering and deputy head of site at the ESA Satellite Control Centre in Germany. I was responsible for the flight dynamics, ground antennas and ground software teams.
What were the main ‘career decision’ milestones in your life so far?
The first decision was to go to Germany to continue postgraduate studies after accomplishing my Masters in Engineering in Spain; I obtained a scholarship to specialise in nuclear technology at the University of Munich and carry out research projects in the field of nuclear safety. There I learnt the ground work of analysis and simulations using large computer codes. Then I took a position as scientific staff and group leader.
But with 35 I was looking for a change, for something new in an advanced technological field like space and applied for a position as a system and simulation engineer in ESA’s control centre.
Then 4 years later I moved to the ESA Technology Centre in The Netherlands, where I was responsible for the modelling and simulation lab, and then, later for the software systems division, that supervised the development of flight software for all ESA satellites.
Then 10 years ago I moved back to ESA’s control centre in Germany and became head of ground systems engineering and Deputy head of ESOC.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
My father and physics teacher during my last year of secondary school and some of the very smart colleagues I have been lucky to work with.
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
Yes, the job gave me a sense of pride of accomplishing relevant and difficult tasks for advanced projects in a fascinating field like space
It also implied to work in international collaboration, with Space Agencies all over the world, which I found very exciting
Also, working in an international environment I felt at home.
How did you go about getting your current job?
When I applied for my first job in ESA I did not expect to be taken, since I had not worked in the space domain before, but ESA does not just employ aerospace engineers, but requires engineers in many different domains, electrical, mechanical, communications, software etc.. so my analysis, modelling and simulation skills were required for the job. That was a dream come true.
Then within ESA I applied to positions I considered interesting with always wider responsibilities. Thus after 4 years I became section head, then division head and finally department head.
Describe a typical day.
in the morning we might attend a simulation campaign for a satellite mission in preparation…
Then we might have to prepare a plan for execution by the satellite, for example for the Rosetta mission…
Then we might have to review what future projects we will need and prioritize the development of new software or communication equipment like antennas.
And then late afternoon we might be warned that there was a warning of a collision with one of our satellites and have to prepare a collision avoidance manoeuvre..
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
Development of the ground systems needed to operate ESA satellites, including the flight dynamics systems, communication antennas and software
Support satellite operations during launch and early orbit phase (Leop) and routine operations
Technology evolution in the domains of competence
Develop international standards that allow inter-agency collaboration
Support space industry, e.g. license and distribute ESA software to European industry and institutional control centres
As deputy head site I had to support interaction with local authorities and communications
What are the main challenges?
To achieve readiness of the ground systems for the next launch of a mission
To plan critical flight dynamic operations
In my job in particular obtaining funding and support from Member sates
Everything about space s cool !!
When we launch a mission in the sky
Societal and media interest, space is living a golden age currently, it is becoming an integral part of society and people in general are very interested in space achievements
Achievements of interplanetary and scientific missions
Deployment of new technologies
What’s not so cool?
Pressure to meet milestones, accomplish projects solving unexpected problems
Sometimes shortage of resources
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
Multidisciplinary technical background
People’s management skills
Multicultural background, languages
What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?
Science subjects, maths, physics
What is your education to date?
Masters in Industrial engineering specialised in Energy
Post-graduate studies in Nuclear Technology
Masters in Astronomy and Astrophysics
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
Fundaments in Physics and Mathematics
Study projects, thesis..
Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?
Training is fundamental to enhance your skills and keep up-to-date with technology, both needed to perform well in your job. I have always considered a priority to keep learning and widening your knowledge
I have carried out man training courses in space engineering, numerical methods, software development, technology R&D management etc..
But also on people’s management training
I am currently enrolled in a PhD programme on Astrophysics
What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
Attend in person successful launches at the launch pad in Kurou of space missions to which I personally contributed, like ATV 2008, Vega launcher 2012,
Witness successful launches of space missions to which my teams have contributed, like Galileo, Rosetta, GAIA, Exomars etc.. but also earth observation satellites Sentinel
Outreach activities, including schools and contact with media
What personal qualities do you have that help you in your career?
Always looking for improvements and innovations, trying to learn better ways of doing things and deeply them in my environment,
To have a vision, that starts with the ideal world and aim high in the definition of goals
Take ownership of problems, wanting to make a difference
Interest in interaction with international teams and organisations,
What is your dream job?
One that includes novelty, discovery, provides sense of purpose and is creative
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
Find out what you really love doing, follow your dream..
Find out what is going on in that field, nationally and internationally
Go always for the most challenging and interesting projects, a good centre of excellence
What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?
Ability to collaborate
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
Having done a stage in at a world class institution
Having been abroad
Work in teams, networking