Before joining Airbus I worked for Roches Stores, Debenhams & Pratt & Whitney Airmotive Ireland
Antenna Mechanical Analysis Engineer
Airbus Defence & Space
I am a mechanical analysis engineer working for Airbus Defence & Space
I am from Clare in Ireland. I started working for Airbus in September 2015. My partner and I live in Hitchin which is a five minute train ride to work. My partner works for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) which is also nearby. We are a half hour train ride from London so when we get free time we like to go into London on day trips but if we’re feeling lazy we just stay at home and watch movies. I also play the saxophone and would like to play with a band in one of Londons jazz clubs someday. Luckily Hitchin is also close to Luton airport which flies to Knock airport so we can get home to see our family and friends a couple of times a year.
I am on the graduate scheme where I worked as a mechanical responsible engineer, mechanical analysis engineer, mechanical design engineer and will work as a mechanical architect.
Since I joined the graduate program with Airbus Defence and Space I have had the opportunity to try out four different engineering jobs.
The first department I worked for was the Antenna Mechanical Responsible Engineering department. This jobe involved working with a team of engineers to develop antenna systems for satellites that provide internet and TV to different parts of the world. My job was to make sure that the thermal engineer (makes sure the spaceship can survive the very hot and very cold temperatures in space), the design engineer (draws up the designs for the antenna) the radio frequency engineer (comes up with the design for the signals transmitted by the antenna and makes sure they are targeted where the customer wants them) and the mechanical analysis engineer (makes sure the antenna survives the launch) all work together in the right direction.
The next department I worked for was the antenna mechanical design department. My job was to draw up the designs for the antenna and make sure it is possible to make designs into real parts.
After this I worked for the antenna mechanical analysis department (described in the my typical day section). After the graduate scheme is over I will be joining this department permanently.
Finally in April I will be working with the mechanical architect department on Solar Orbiter, a spaceship that will be launched at the end of next year to study the sun.
My Typical Day
A typical day involves coming up with hand calculations and generating computer models to figure out what forces are acting on the satellite and what effect they will have.
Depending on the stage the project is at my typical day can be quite different.
Early in the project, what we call the conceptual design phase, I use information from previous projects (or as it is known in engineering speak ‘design heritage’) along with hand calculations (maths like algebra and trigonometry for example) to come up with some rough sizes for the part we are designing. This phase ends at the preliminary design review (PDR) where we present our ideas to the customer and they let us know what they think.
For next phase in the project, what we call the detailed design phase, I create computer models (known as finite element models in engineering speak) to figure out where the structure is most likely to fail during the most hostile stage of the spacecrafts lifetime, the launch. Using this information we can change the design to make sure the spaceship can survive its trip to space. This phase ends at the critical design review (CDR) where we present our final design to the customer.
When the customer is happy with our design we move to the next stage which is building the spacecraft. The mechanical analysis engineer isn’t involved much with this stage but is available to give advise if any changes need to be made last minute that we missed in our design.
The final stage before we deliver the spaceship to our customer for launch is the testing phase. During this stage the spaceship is attached to a test rig called a slip table and shaken back and forth. The spaceship is most likely to fall apart during the launch as it is shaken violently inside the rocket. By shaking the spaceship on the slip table and comparing our results with the computer model we made in the detailed design phase we can be confident that it will survive its trip to space.
What I'd do with the money
I would use the money to enable schools to visit our Airbus discovery space center.
In a few weeks Airbus will be opening the Airbus discovery space centre on our Stevenage site.
This unique facility will consist of a multi-functional education centre with interactive exhibits, a space to deliver classes and workshops, and a viewing gallery connecting with ongoing engineering activities to build and test the European Space Agency’s ExoMars rover in the Mars Yard.
The centre is designed to help young people with advice and guidance on the best pathways into science and engineering careers. Here young people will receive real insights into the job opportunities available in the area and what employers look for when recruiting.
When I was younger I found that seeing aircraft up close really got me thinking about how they work and ultimately led to a career in engineering. A visit to the centre will provide a great opportunity for young people to get closer to a space mission than is usually possible and speak to scientists and engineers who work in the industry about their work and how to get into a career in science or engineering themselves.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, Ambitious and Easy-going
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
I helped develop a sunshield that will protect the antenna system from the extreme environments experienced in space.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
When I was ten or eleven a friends dad who worked in shannon airport used to bring a group of kids from my neighbourhood out to see airplanes taking off and landing which sparked my interest in learning how airplanes can fly and from there how spaceships can make it into space.
What did you want to be after you left school?
An Aircraft Engineer
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Not often but a couple of times for playing football with friends after lunch break was over.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Queens of the Stone Age
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I attended a space camp in Austria where I worked with science and engineering students from all over the world to come up with an idea for a space mission to the gas giants.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To work on space exploration missions, travel as much of the world as possible and live a stress free life.