In the Spotlight

Meet Nathalie Doytchinov

Engineer in Charleroi

Meet Nathalie Doytchinov

Engineer in Charleroi

    Can you please explain your job?

    After graduating, I joined Thales Alenia Space in Belgium two years ago as a mechanical and thermal design engineer. Our facility in Charleroi specializes in design and production of power electronics for satellites and launchers.

    My job is to design the “packaging” of these units to withstand the environments they encounter during their lifecycle. The launch phase subjects our satellites and their systems to severe shocks and vibrations. Once in orbit, they’re exposed to the radiation and extreme temperature excursions of space, and to heating of their electronic components throughout their lifetime. For communications satellites, that means they need to be robust enough to operate for more than 15 years.

    We build preliminary 3D models to run thermal, mechanical and radiation simulations and obtain highly reliable designs. As a result, we’re involved from development down to environmental testing, which we follow-up.

    In the scope of my job, I’m in charge of the power conditioning and distribution unit (PCDU) product line for satellites.

    Alongside my engineering tasks, I’m also on the Agility team at Thales Alenia Space in Belgium. Our role is to get new teams up to speed, mentor and coach older hands, and onboard new hires.

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

    I’m obviously proud to be contributing to banner space projects like Hera or Copernicus, the most ambitious European Earth-observation program dedicated to environmental monitoring. It’s great to be working with such highly skilled people who are so passionate about their job, and to be learning alongside them every day. We have a fantastic mechanical and thermal design team and I really feel like I belong here.

    Which event in your career have you enjoyed the most?

    Nathalie Doytchinov

    © Thales Alenia Space & © ESA

    There have been several standout events. My first two years in the job just flew by. We really hit the ground running and had to adapt very quickly to be operational in record time. That was a real challenge and the learning curve was steep!

    But the biggest one for me was the delivery of the PCDU for the Hera mission in December 2022, the first project I worked on. I was fortunate to be on a highly motivated team that pulled out all the stops to deliver on time. I was even able to see the mechanical vibration tests, which were really impressive. It’s truly an extraordinary mission!

    For those who haven’t heard of it yet, Hera is Europe’s contribution to the international Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA), the world’s first planetary defense mission that is aiming to determine whether we’re capable of deflecting an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. AIDA in fact comprises two missions: NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test), a kinetic impactor designed to modify the orbit of the smallest moonlet in the Didymos binary asteroid system, and ESA’s Hera surveyor spacecraft, which will rendezvous with the target asteroid impacted four years earlier by DART. Thales Alenia Space is supplying the communications system and other key equipment for the Hera spacecraft, which will send back vital data on Didymos, an analog for the thousands of asteroids posing a potential threat to our planet.

    What are the qualities required in your profession?

    Above all, you need to be technically minded, with a penchant for mechanical and thermal engineering aspects. Curiosity is also an essential quality in a job that cuts across different disciplines. And lastly, you need to be a good team worker with strong interpersonal skills and an open mind to work calmly and effectively in a multidisciplinary team.