Meet the Technologist:Nick James | MarketScreener
We talked to Nick about why protected space technology is so important and what motivates him to work in this exciting field.
Nick James, executive engineer on our space team, points to the location of comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenkocomet, where we helped land the Rosetta spacecraft in 2014.
What space technologies do we have at BAE Systems?
There are many! Here in the United Kingdom, we are particularly strong in terms of satellite earth station equipment, such as high-performance signal processors, which we supply to the European Space Agency, Goonhilly and others. This allows customers to receive and process very weak signals from spacecraft at a very long distance – sometimes over a billion kilometers. This ability to detect and process weak signals is also useful in other military fields.
What we really enjoy right now is our work on the “new space”. Here we are developing relatively inexpensive satellites the size of a shoebox for communication and surveillance, which previously required bus-sized satellites. Combined with the drastically declining launch costs – you can now launch a small satellite for around £ 200,000 – this means we can do things much faster and more cost-effectively than before.
One of our key areas in the new space is software-defined radio stations or SDRs. In the “old space”, you had to do most of your computing work on earth, given the cost of bringing radiation-cured processing power into space. However, we can now create SDR payloads for satellites that can actually process information in space instead of transmitting signals to ground stations to do the job. This speeds up communications and surveillance, reducing the huge amount of data that has to be transmitted.
One of our key skills is to make things safe and sustainable. We are currently working with customers to make sure their satellites are cyber secure, given the importance of space assets for both defense and commercial use. The satellites are controlled by radio frequencies from the ground, which means that anyone with the right radio equipment can try to hack them.
What makes space such an exciting job?
We have also participated in the landing of a spaceship on several planets and comets. NASA’s recent Mars Rover has BAE Systems equipment on both the vehicle itself (radiation-cured electronics supplied by BAE Systems Inc) and the station that receives signals on the ground (Goonhilly in Cornwall, which uses our SDRs). We also helped land ships on Venus, Mercury and Comet Rosetta while it was 800 million kilometers from Earth.
Many things are happening in business and with the help of the technical director we are now starting to gather all our opportunities to create new projects. There has never been a more exciting time to participate in space at BAE Systems.
Why is space so important for defense?
In short, communications and surveillance. Space allows you to get global coverage in both areas at a much lower cost. If you use surveillance space, it is also much harder for others to intervene than planes.
There are currently a growing number of anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities that either use kinetic force to “kill” other satellites or detonate next to them. That is why we are looking at constellations of satellites to ensure much greater resilience if some are destroyed.
It is really important for the defense to maintain space ability, because without it you are effectively blind. Either you rely on someone else or you leave without him, which would put you at a huge disadvantage. At least one company in the UK is also considering fast launches, which would allow you to launch satellites in a very short time to provide fast coverage when needed.
What makes you work in space with enthusiasm?
I’ve always been really interested in space since watching Apollo land on the moon during my school days. There is something about using rockets to place any technology in space that gives it extra noise.
The children are the same today, as I am also an ambassador for STEM, so go to schools to encourage interest in engineering. As soon as you add space to the conversation, it really comes to life, because the children are just naturally interested immediately.
I have always managed to include space in my career and I see that this continues, given the growing number of opportunities in the new space. I would recommend it to anyone.
BAE Systems plc publishes this content on December 28, 2021 and is fully responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Public, unedited and unchanged at December 27, 2021 23:16:05 UTC.
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