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In the Spotlight

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Mar 23 2023
In the Spotlight

Andrea PENA

Can you please explain your job?

I’m responsible for the integration and testing of spaceborne instruments at Thales Alenia Space in Zurich. At the moment, I’m working on two different projects: the first is an optical-fiber-based component which will be coupled to a spectro-imager to measure human-induced carbon dioxide emissions in Earth’s atmosphere. Dubbed CO2M, this mission is part of the Copernicus program.

For those not familiar with it, Copernicus is the most ambitious environmental monitoring program in the world, with 12 families of “Sentinel” satellites surveying Earth, its topography, seas, lakes, oceans, and polar regions. Copernicus also encompasses climatology missions and programs measuring human-induced CO2 emissions or affording new applications to foster sustainable agriculture and biodiversity. A program of this scale is key to Europe’s ability to better anticipate the consequences of global warming and safeguard our planet. Our company is a major contributor to 11 of the 12 missions in the European Commission’s program. The satellites are built by European prime contractors for the European Space Agency (ESA).

The second project is a telescope for ESA’s COMET Interceptor mission, which will intercept comets entering the inner Solar System. My main goal is to ensure the instruments we deliver are properly tested and their performance is fully understood, so that we don’t get any surprises once they’re in space!

What are you most proud of in your day-to-day activity?

Andrea PENA

© Thales Alenia Space

Finally finding a solution – after days, weeks or even months struggling with technical issues! Brainstorming with colleagues to solve such issues is also one of the things I enjoy most in my job.

Which event in your career have you enjoyed the most?

I’ve assembled, integrated, and tested cameras for Earth-observation programs that have been successfully launched and then performed as expected. That’s definitely a milestone we can celebrate as a team. In general, I try to enjoy every project and learn as much as I can from my colleagues.

In three words, what are the qualities required in your profession?

I would say proactiveness (nobody will solve the problem for you!), analytical thinking (when you’re dealing with a difficult technical issue, you must be able to extract key information without getting lost in the details), and good communications skills (teamwork is fundamental, and fostering a positive and communicative environment is crucial to project success).