Fostering the Next Generation in Space

Here on SatCom Frontier we often discuss how the commercial space industry delivers innovation to government SATCOM clients. In the same vein, to maintain technological innovation we as an industry need to ensure that we are fostering the next generation of space professionals.

This issue is particularly challenging due to the low graduation rates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Intelsat General Corporation has invested in an active internship program and works with groups such as The Future Space Leaders Foundation (FSLF), a tax exempt 501 c3 non-profit organization dedicated to the career development of young space and satellite industry professionals.

Two of our interns recently completed their summer programs. Frank Preston is a student at Towson University pursuing an IT major, and Steven Thai is a computer engineering student at the University of Maryland – Baltimore Campus. SatCom Frontier spoke with both of them earlier this month before they returned to their respective schools.

Steven has family members working in the commercial satellite industry, and has decided to pursue some kind of aerospace career. He said he was kept very busy and learned a great deal about how satellite communications operate:

“I worked on a number of projects given me by IGC engineers. I especially enjoyed modeling satellite systems and teleport maps using software development kits,” Steven said. “SATCOM is so essential to so many things today but not very well known. “I learned a lot about things such as frequency loss and reuse and the pros and cons of various frequency bands. IGC seems like a close-knit operation and I was taken in and given the chance to be a real contributor.”

Frank was given his own projects to manage as part of his internship, and is very interested in a job in the commercial space industry after his graduation next year.

“I was expected to provide ideas to my team, and I worked on improving work flows and refining presentations,” Frank told SatCom Frontier. “I learned a lot about how the space segment connects to the terrestrial infrastructure, and the constant challenge of optimal constellation management. It was interesting to learn more about other challenges facing the industry, such as managing the increase in space debris.”

Through our internship program and support of organizations like FSLF Intelsat General is working to ensure a pipeline of future space professionals. To maintain our nation’s technological edge in space, it’s critical that that industry stimulate the growth and development of students into tomorrow’s space leaders. The FSLF connects current space professionals with graduate students seeking careers in space, and assists students and young professionals in attending space and satellite industry conferences and events through grants covering travel and registration expenses.

These efforts benefit the entire industry and our customers. More young people like Steven and Frank need to be exposed to the vitality and innovation of the commercial satellite industry.