In the Spotlight

Meet Drashti Shah

Propulsion systems engineer at Thales Alenia Space in the UK

Meet Drashti Shah

Propulsion systems engineer at Thales Alenia Space in the UK

    Can you please explain your job?

    As a Propulsion Systems Engineer, I work on different aspects of the propulsion subsystem. Some of the work I am currently involved in includes: development of Cold Gas Thrusters & Gridded Ion Engines through their respective product life cycles and working on studies where I help assess different technologies and identify which would best achieve the desired results within a given schedule and budget. Additionally, I lead work developing a road map for SmallSats, mentoring a start-up and managing an outreach program, MarsBalloon, with the goal of exposing the younger generation to Space. In this role, you continuously engage with disciplines outside of your remit such as with Mechanical Architects, Product Engineers and Procurement, to name a few. A lot of my work also revolves around communicating with Customers and Suppliers which I believe is integral at any phase of a project.

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

    It makes me happy to know that the work I do on a day-to-day basis contributes to making a difference. A large portion of my time at the moment is spent on product development for Space Inspire’s propulsion subsystem. Space Inspire is a software-defined and extremely flexible telecommunications solution supported by an ESA Partnership Project called Novacom II and by French space agency, CNES. It is a new product line for geostationary satellites which will facilitate instant in-orbit reconfiguration, flexibility for video broadcasting and broadband connectivity services. In the field of this program, Thales Alenia Space teams in the UK is responsible for the design of the Propulsion Subsystem. I am very much excited to work on a program which seeks to provide innovative designs and cutting-edge solutions. In 2021, Thales Alenia Space took the lead on the geostationary market, being awarded contracts to build 5 telecommunications satellites, as industrial prime contractor. One of them, SES’ ASTRA 1Q satellite will be based on our new Space INSPIRE solution.

    In early 2022, Intelsat telecom operator has renewed its trust in our company, ordering 2 brand new Space INSPIRE satellites to Thales Alenia Space. I am referring to Intelsat 41 and Intelsat 44 satellites. It is also really rewarding to work for a company which strives to push boundaries, places emphasis on good communication and focuses on building strong relationships with all external stakeholders.

    Which event in your career have you enjoyed the most?

    Thales Alenia Space gave me my first step into the Space Industry. Within six months of my placement, I was given the opportunity to lead a breadboard test campaign which assessed a potential architecture to enable refueling in orbit. Here I had the chance to manage the Supplier, learn about how different components in a subsystem interact with each other, receive and analyze test data, identify and evaluate anomalies and report back to the Customer, ESA, on our findings. As an engineer new to working life and the industry, being given the chance to work on such an exciting project with a variety of learning opportunities was a wonderful experience for me and only further confirmed that I really wanted to work in the Space Industry.

    In 3 words, what are the qualities required in your profession?

    Enthusiasm, determination, and communication.

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