In the Spotlight

Meet Nolwenn Daubin

Sales and Export Control Manager, Switzerland

Meet Nolwenn Daubin

Sales and Export Control Manager, Switzerland

    Tell us about your job…

    I’ve had a fairly unusual career path. After a vocational training program in international trade, my first job was as a fashion sales assistant. That was a great experience, and I even ended up in New York! I was 25, working in a French ready-to-wear and jewelry store called Biche de Bère, in Nantes, when out of the blue I was offered a job as sales assistant in charge of communication for two months in New York. One of my most singular experiences there was a promotional photo shoot on the rooftops for the brand’s wedding dresses. I was light years away from the space industry at that point!

    I subsequently worked in other stores in France, and then for a magazine. After that, I decided to enroll again as a student to refresh my skills in pursuit of my dream job in international trade.

    I obtained a diploma from the Nantes Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s international trade training center before embarking on my first real career move in business development, in the chemicals industry. My company was developing chemical molecules for research and development, and at that time we were working for pharmaceutical laboratories, cosmetics, luxury goods firms and agribusiness. You can’t imagine how many sectors rely on specialty chemicals!

    In 2013, I was contacted by the spinoff of a top university in Zurich, where I continued to work in sales and marketing, logistics and communications. During that time, I traveled the world promoting our company to Big Pharma and biotech firms.

    And in 2018, I was hired by Thales Alenia Space’s Zurich facility, where I’ve combined a new function for me in export control with my tasks as Sales Manager.

    Womensday:  Nolwenn Daubin

    © Thales Alenia Space

    What programs have you worked on at Thales Alenia Space?

    I’ve been involved in a lot of ESA programs, including Comet Interceptor, a mission to intercept a newly discovered comet just as it’s entering the inner solar system. This mission will deliver new insights into the origins of comets and give the scientific community precious data about interstellar objects visiting the solar system. Our teams in Zurich are supplying the RMA SME (Rotating Mirror Assembly Scan Mechanism Electronics) and a telescope for this mission called COCA. You couldn’t make it up!


    Comet Interceptor ©ESA

    Our Zurich teams are also working on ESA’s CO2M mission for the European Commission’s Copernicus environmental monitoring program. Thales Alenia Space is supplying two payloads to the prime contractor OHB for this unprecedented mission that will measure human-induced CO2 emissions from space for the first time. In Zurich, we’re supplying a telescope and the 2-Dimension Slit Homogenizer (2DSH).


    CO2M ©OHB/Thales Alenia Space

    My colleagues in Zurich are also involved in the Aeolus mission launched in 2018, the first to acquire surface wind profiles from space on a global scale. Its data has improved weather forecasting and climate modeling. The mission was successfully brought to an end in July 2023, having exceeded its design lifetime after serving the scientific community for many years. Our Swiss teams built the first interferometers for this mission, and we’re now geared up to supply similar equipment to the prime contractor Airbus for the follow-on. In fact, we’ve signed a pre-development contract with ESA to de-risk the satellite’s Dual Michelson Interferometer (DMI).

    We’re also closely involved in NASA’s Artemis program to put astronauts back on the Moon and establish a permanent base there in the years ahead. Thales Alenia Space is building three pressurized modules for the Lunar Gateway cislunar orbital station. Our teams in Turin are supplying key components for the Orion spacecraft’s European Service Module (ESM), for which Airbus is the prime contractor. They’re supplying the critical subsystems for the service modules, including the structure and protective “skin” to shield them from micrometeorite impacts, and the thermal control and fuel storage and distribution subsystems, all vital for the safety of the crew and mission. In Switzerland, we’ve already delivered the Solar Array Drive Electronics (SADE).



    Our Swiss teams are also very active on ESA’s LISA mission, for which they’ve worked on the Gravitational Reference Sensor Front-End Electronics and the Constellation Acquisition Sensor. LISA will be the first space observatory to detect gravitational waves, “ripples” in space-time created by dense celestial bodies with very strong gravity — like black holes — moving at high speed, as predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The mission will give scientists a completely new perspective of the cosmos compared to conventional observing techniques, and will most likely help them unravel some of its many mysteries. ESA recently gave the go-ahead to start building the satellite.

    Lastly, although I haven’t been directly involved, my colleagues in Switzerland are very proud to be supplying the Cryogenic Solar Absolute Radiometer (CSAR), a key instrument for ESA’s TRUTHS mission for which Airbus is prime contractor. This science mission will continuously measure incoming and reflected solar radiation to evaluate the ratio of energy absorbed and emitted by Earth. It will be a gold standard for understanding climate change. So, all in all, I’ve worked on quite a few missions!

    What advice would you give high-school and college students eager to pursue STEM careers?

    Well, they’d better like math! I’d advise them to keep at it — never give up on your dreams. And of course women can excel in these fields just as well as men. Plus, STEM careers offer exciting opportunities: you meet great people who are passionate about what they do and are keen to share their knowledge. So, it’s very stimulating intellectually and it spurs you on.

    What are the most important qualities in your job?

    Flexibility, responsiveness, creativity, and of course… a passion for what you do! You also need to show attention to detail and know when to be diplomatic.