South Australia has its eyes firmly locked on space with a massive $6.5 million mission in the works.
The SASAT1 Space Services Mission, which involves manufacturing a small satellite and sending it into low Earth orbit, is set to boost Australia’s space economy and create stacks of amazing STEM jobs! It will also help improve state emergency services, the environment, water quality monitoring, mining and bushfire mitigation.
SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre will lead the mission and be responsible for application prototyping. They’ll work with with Adelaide-based satellite manufacturing company Inovor Technologies to design and build the satellite, plus the South Australian space company Myriota – who secure direct-to-orbit satellite connectivity and collect data.
The importance of the SASAT1 Space Services Mission
SmartSat CEO, Professor Andy Koronios, says one of the most valuable things the SASAT1 Space Services Mission will give Australia is experience.
“The more you do something the better you become at doing it,” says Andy. “Australia seems to depend so much on other countries. We want the companies here to build their own capabilities.”
This mission will also play a small but important part in helping space startups grow into larger global companies, according to Andy.
It comes with a lot of challenges and technical risks too.
“We need to be able to integrate very expensive, very delicate systems. We need to test it and make sure it works perfectly on the ground. Then you’ve got to make sure it actually survives its launch into space.”
The satellite, which will be the size of a cereal box, is due to be launched in 15 months time and will be in space for three to five years.
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Working in the space industry
There are so many different jobs in the space industry. Satellite engineer, space weather analyst, propulsion technician, flight controller… But what is it actually like to work in this area?
“I like the challenges and the fact there are always problems to solve,” Andy says about working in the space industry. “I enjoy that I don’t always have to solve the problem myself! I have such clever people, more intelligent than I am, around me.”
And as the CEO of a space company, Andy’s days are exciting and varied – and he admits there’s no such thing as a typical day at work! One of the most crucial parts, though, is making sure things are running smoothly within the entire team.
“The most important thing is to make sure that we coordinate our activities,” he says. “In the past, you did a lot of things by yourself. Now, you do it by yourself but you’re actually adding to a team effort. So as the CEO I always have to ensure that things are working well, and the teams have everything they need to achieve their collective goals.”
Communications skills are also essential to Andy’s role as he regularly liaises with governments and universities, and speaks to the media to promote the impact of the work SmartSat is doing (like the SASAT1 Space Services Mission).
Thinking of a space career?
Here’s Andy’s top three tips for anyone starting out on space or STEM study and career path:
- Never engage in self-doubt because it doesn’t help. Don’t ever think, “Oh this is great! But I’m not smart enough.” Anyone can be involved in the space industry or in STEM.
- Have the willingness to really work and be persistent. I came from a little village in Greece and leading a group of people in this area was the last thing I ever dreamed of.
- Volunteer – get experience, do an internship. Even if they don’t pay you, just go and see what they do and if you want to work in that area.
Andy’s study and career pathway
- Bachelor of Electrical Engineering, University of Southern Queensland
- Graduate Diploma in Education, University of Southern Queensland
- Masters of Computer Science, University of New England
- PhD, The University of Queensland
- Professor of Information Systems and Head of School, University of South Australia
- Research Program Leader, Centre for Integrated Engineering Asset Management
- Professor of Information Systems, Strategic Information Management Lab, Advanced Computing Research Centre
- CEO & Managing Director, SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre
Inspired by the SASAT1 Space Services Mission? Super keen on space? Check out Careers with STEM: Space 2021 for more pathways and deets on how to get yourself an incredible space career.
Author: Louise Meers
Louise is the acting digital editor for Careers with STEM. She has a journalism degree from the University of Technology, Sydney and has spent over a decade writing for youth. She is passionate about inspiring young people to achieve their biggest goals.