A beginning in space - A story about Eurekas
Updated: Jan 6
P.S. If you are feeling extra lazy, you can skip to the bottom and have a watch of the conference presentation given by myself and my peer for the Intercollegiate Engineering Alliance
By Thomas Chiu Founder and Director
This is the first of many blog posts that will be going out on HiveSpace.uk, I thought it would be best to start of with something which is easy and close to my heart - my own personal journey and how I got here.
Space for me was always something out of reach, more like a pipe-dream. I think it's because of the ubiquity of large headlines surrounding companies like SpaceX and NASA that I always thought I'd have to cross an ocean to get there. But, in reality, with a little searching, space is pretty easy to find.
"Where is my Eureka?"
During my first two years studying Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester , I was in search of that "Eureka" moment. You know, that moment when the stars align and you knew exactly what you want to do? But, it was seeming like that wasn't going to happen anyime soon. I actually debated swapping my degree or dropping out to become a strength and conditioning coach.
One day, I was at home, and I got an email from the uni about this "AAS CanSat competition". I hadn't really thought of satellites before as a potential career, I always thought it might be a bit boring compared to rockets. However, for some reason, I decided to just fill out the form and within a couple days I had an interview lined up to join the team as a mechanical engineer.
Unfortunately, I didn't get the role. But, I was asked to participate in the "UK University CanSat Competition", a more entry-level competition, where I joined as a Chief engineer. I started getting really involved and I very much enjoyed how it was outside of the boring university curriculum that was heavily biased towards aviation. It was in this competition where I learnt about subsystems and their interdependencies, as well as some of the basic satellite design challenges and engineering processes; conceptual, preliminary and critical design reviews. I quickly became aware of the amazing and unique challenges satellite design has to offer. Not only do you have to design for function, but also for the integration of cutting-edge technology within an extreme space environment.
Little did I know, but all these skills were developing me for a role as director for the competition a year later. I also had the opportunity to put these skills to the test in my university module on conceptual aerospace design the following year, where we did a preliminary design for a space debris removal satellite, and won the year-group competition. Something which I wouldn't have had success in, if not for getting involved in satellite design a year prior.
Cold Emails over the Hot stuff
It's now my 3rd year of study, I was directing the competition, had a good level of leadership experience, and basic knowledge of satellite design. So if any time was a good time to get involved and try to find an internship, it was now. So, I did the usual thing of applying to "Airbus", "BAE", etc. But my first success actually came from a small satellite start-up based in DarmStadt in Germany. The result of a cold-email can make a huge difference. It was here where I got the chance to flex my entrepreneurial ability by conducting lots of market research for them, attending conferences and getting involved in data handling activities. They even launched an in-orbit-demonstrator and I was able to do some ground station activities. I did this 4 days a week during my studies in the 2nd semester of University, whilst writing a dissertation. And I LOVED it. Having a break from university work is a god-send. It's really easy to get stuck on the academic-treadmill and get it confused with the career-bike (PT Thomas coming out now). In reality, it's better to have some variation and progress in both.
"Oh, Here it is"
Getting my first taste of the space sector, as well as the networking opportunities that present themselves from an entry-level internship provides huge value, not only for your personal portfolio of skills and experience, but also in deciding if this is something that you may want to do in the future. For me, it all started from that initial society involvement. I understand societies are different at every university, which is why I am working hard to make HiveSpace a reality so I can make space accessible for everyone. I encourage you, to dive deep into the space sector and open their eyes to the community of amazing people working to deliver amazing technologies to this planet. So... Eureka.