SATELLITE 2022 Trip Report

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March 30, 2022

Sixteen OSSTP Group undergraduate students  attend the SATELLITE 2022 Conference with Prof. Whitney Lohmeyer and share their experience. This trip was made possible thanks to the generous funding of the Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) Grant and to Olin College of Engineering. 

Ethan Chen

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SATELLITE 2022 was an excellent opportunity to dive into the space industry and attain comprehension of the different aspects of the industry that exist outside of what I already knew. Space Generation x (SGx) began with various talks that provided a new perspective, specifically the government and policy and human space flight panels. The government and policy panel introduced me to the space industry outside of science and technology. Listening to the three speakers was really informative for how vital policy and government are to advancing the space industry. As for the human space flight panel, I had previously thought little about why we do things in space. After listening to the speakers, I understood that we go to space because it is human nature. Because humans are curious by nature we want to share experiences with others which is why we must continue to go to space. Talking to companies in the industry was an incredible opportunity to see the firsthand innovation center happening with satellites, antennas, and much more. One of my favorite moments was when we talked to CesiumAstro. I was fascinated by how they are innovating phase shift arrays to all longer communications with a single satellite. Seeing their technology firsthand and hearing from their engineers made it so much more exciting to be a part of this industry. It excited me even more about the future, as I can see the work right in front of me rather than hearing it in the news. Also, the engineer who talked to us, a mechanical engineer by trade, as I hope to be, explained phase shift arrays through an analogy of stones and dropping them in the water. That analogy worked for me and helped me understand how phase shift arrays work. All in all, SATELLITE 2022 was a fantastic experience to jump into the industry and be able to see and hear about new technologies that I might never ever have learned about if I hadn’t gone. It was also an excellent opportunity to hear more about other vital aspects of the space industry, like policy, law, and culture, that must exist and be discussed for science and engineering to happen.

Antoinette Tan

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The SGx portion of SATELLITE 2022 inspired and taught me how to use the skills I already have to further the industry. While my passion has been the environment, space has also been of strong interest to me.  During the Government and Policy panel, Mary Guenther pointed out that satellites contribute greatly to what we know about weather and climate change. In addition, many other speakers emphasized that being in the space industry wasn’t just for traditional engineers. I found it refreshing to hear about applications of space technology that weren't just for defense or exploration purposes. To that end, it was inspiring seeing so many young professionals who have already accomplished many great achievements. Exploring the Exhibit Hall was an irreplaceable experience that helped further my understanding of space and taught me next steps to take if I want to succeed as an engineer. In the Olin Satellite +Spectrum Technology & Policy Group (OSSTP) lab, I’ve had to sift through many patents and papers to create an overview of flat panel antennas. In the Exhibit Hall, however, I was able to see these technologies in person for the first time, and talk to some of the engineers that wrote the patents.  Physically seeing the technology and asking questions was a great learning experience that surpassed any white paper or patent I could’ve read. To conclude, SATELLITE 2022 was a great experience. I not only learned a lot, but also got closer to  my fellow lab members.  Below are a couple of pictures with us at the conference.  This conference was a great bonding experience for all of us and will help us work better on any future projects. 

Audrey Lee

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I really enjoyed SATELLITE 2022, it was informative, fun, and eye-opening. This experience has allowed me to get a better understanding of industry and the interactions between those already in this field. Sheltered by being in the Olin Bubble, my view on the different career paths in this field have shifted. Hearing the speakers’ passionate stories in SGx and having multiple conversations with fellow attendees has prompted me to ponder different job opportunities that I can pursue in this industry. For me, attending the Exhibit Hall was the highlight of this conference. Meeting representatives from multiple companies was an amazing experience. In particular, I was excited and inspired by the company's passionate response to adhering to EPFD regulations. My favorite was the conversation with ThinKom’s CTO: William Milroy. He excitedly shared that his company’s product not only adheres to Article 22’s limits, but ensures that their devices are way below these limits. His passion and excitement for his product and how he adheres to policy fascinated me. Since this is what I am currently working on in this lab, I really appreciated how this topic is utilized and how my work can impact those in the industry. These experiences have inspired me to delve more into the policy side of satellite communications, and I want to continue learning more. Overall, I think I got an amazing experience from this conference. I was able to meet and converse with passionate professionals, and I also got to bond with the lab team. I highly recommend that people attend this conference in the future as I believe that it is a valuable career and social experience.

Shamama Sirron

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Hanging out after the conference during the Cherry Blossom Festival!

Attending SATELLITE 2022 was an amazing experience for me and a great opportunity to learn more about the industry and speak with prominent members of the field. The lack of diversity in the current field incentivised us to continue working in aerospace. Hearing speakers talk about problems within the community and how they hope to change them was refreshing and eye-opening. Hearing from astronauts was also incredible and we were able to learn about how the experience changed their outlooks.  I was most surprised by their encouragement of engineers to be good at writing and having writers travel to space, as that is how the rest of humanity will be able to best understand the experience as an astronaut. Alongside my lab group, I was able to travel and walk around D.C. during the cherry blossom festival which was beautiful. We had great food with other Satellite attendees and organizers. Learning about the behind-the-scenes of creating an experience like SATELLITE 22 was very interesting and talking to younger people in the industry made attending the conference much more comfortable. A huge highlight of the conference for me was the SGx speaker Dr. Tanya Harrison, as she spoke about the struggles she had to go through to obtain her degree and work in a field she loved. She also explained that many changed paths multiple times and understood that their skillset can be useful in various contexts, even if she hadn’t worked on the exact same project in the past. I enjoyed my time traveling with Olin Satellite + Spectrum Technology & Policy Group (OSSTP) and would love to attend the conference again.

Celvi Lisy

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Attending the SATELLITE 2022 conference helped me gain greater insight into the industry. I was able to learn a lot through the SGx (young professionals) panel, especially about areas of the industry where I didn’t have as much exposure such as policy,  human spaceflight, and institutional culture. I thought these panels were really interesting as we got to meet experts in these fields, which is unusual for engineering students. Everyone on these panels were also extremely inspiring and passionate, which made their talks fun to listen to. These panels also helped me realize what direction I want to take my career in after graduating and showed me that engineering students have a lot of options after graduating (we can even go into policy!). 

The highlight of the trip for me was getting to walk the exhibit hall. There were so many interesting and groundbreaking companies there, and it helped me see what some of the cutting edge technology in the field was. It was also interesting to see technology being developed in aspects of the field I was passionate about such as orbital debris mitigation, conjunction analysis and near miss avoidances. I was also able to talk to a lot of companies and people who gave me advice on the best way to approach my career goals. My personal favorite moment was getting to meet one of my role models, Charity Weeden, the Chief Policy Officer of Astroscale.

Rohil Agarwal

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The lab at the University of Toronto created CanX-4 and CanX-5, a nanosat mission that OSSTP’s SWARM-EX CubeSat mission takes inspiration from.

Met up with a former colleague!

Watching my former boss (third from left) at a panel

This was my first time at SATELLITE 22 and my first time at a commercial-focused conference. Overall, I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the conference. From the moment I walked in and realized how large the scale of the conference was, to the time I left, SATELLITE 22 was eye-opening. I think the biggest thing I learned about the conference was the power of networking. Though there were probably thousands of people at the conference, somehow everywhere you looked people were running into old friends and colleagues. Much of this was the result of these people having built strong, expansive networks throughout their careers and at past conferences such as this one. It took me a bit of time to get into the swing of things, but when I did, I enjoyed getting to meet new people and hear their stories. In particular, I really enjoyed chatting with the cofounder of Planet and hearing about his journey. There were many highlights of this conference.  The first was the Human Spaceflight session at SGx. This was a really cool opportunity to hear from a panel of three space travelers (two NASA, one Blue Origin). I especially enjoyed  B. Alvin Drew's talk, as he was an eloquent speaker who said some things that resonated with me (e.g. national/state boundaries mean nothing from up above and are really just "mass hysteria" that we all buy into).  Another event that I particularly enjoyed during the conference was former NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine’s opening talk. He chose to focus on space sustainability/orbital debris problems, which I appreciated, as it helped bring attention to an extremely important issue that is, in my opinion, more worth talking about than some of the topics based on financial issues and business cases that other speakers discussed. He also talked about what concrete steps attendees could take immediately to help combat the orbital debris problem (e.g. making space sustainability part of a company’s ESG), which I thought was a much-needed way to help attendees turn words into actions. Finally, a third highlight for me was catching up with some old colleagues I worked with over the summer at Momentus. It was really nice seeing familiar faces, and I think this speaks to how this conference really helps people in the satellite industry reconnect when they otherwise might not.

Andrew Phillips

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Me at SATELLITE 2022!

I really enjoyed my time at SATELLITE 2022, as it was a great opportunity to learn more about the aerospace industry and listen to some personal experiences from the many hosted panels. I especially liked many of the SGx panels, as they covered some of the positive changes being made in the aerospace industry as well as great life stories from the speakers. One of the panels that stood out to me was the Institutional Culture Panel, which in part focused on making the industry more accessible to many different groups of people. It is great that new opportunities are being made available for underrepresented groups in the aerospace industry to get involved, through scholarships, mentorship programs, and more. Another highlight of the event for me was the Human Spaceflight Panel. Listening to the experiences of astronauts in space gave me a personal insight to the human element behind space missions. It also showed me how much more accessible spaceflight is becoming, as more and more people are being sent to space with each passing year. I wonder about the future of space tourism, and whether I will live to see the day where space is readily accessible to the public.

Argyris Kriezis

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This year was my third time attending the SATELLITE 2022 conference. Each year I attend the conference my experience changes as my knowledge on satellite communications grows. This year’s highlight was meeting up with professionals that I had connected with in previous years. The projects I am currently working on in the OSSTP Group are directly related to the topics and companies that presented in the conference. For the first time walking the exhibition floor I felt I had a good understanding of the systems presented. I was able to identify the RF chain components of antenna systems and understand the features of different systems. The conference also provided me with the opportunity to seek advice regarding my post graduation plans. I aim to pursue a PhD in Aerospace Engineering and was able to talk with professionals that have similar degrees and understand how it has shaped their careers. Overall it was a great experience for me as I got to see applications of systems I have learned in class and the lab. I am grateful that the lab and ARDC sponsored this experience and I am looking forward to returning next year.

Phillip Post

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SATELLITE  2022 offered me a deep dive into the satellite industry, the latest advancements, and the fascinating people that make these awe-inspiring feats of science and engineering possible. Before this, I never really knew what working in the satellite industry meant, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how multifaceted it really is. Everything from shape-shifting antennas to environmental data collection was discussed at SATELLITE  2022, and it was informative to see just how multidisciplinary the industry is. My favorite panel was between two ground station manufacturers and two antenna manufacturers. In real-time, they laid out the issues they have in fulfilling others' needs, and both came to a better understanding of how both sides of this industry could better collaborate to solve their own issues. Another highlight was that I was able to eat lunch with Constance Johnson, a candidate for the 2022 senate election in North Carolina. It was incredibly fun and enriching to discuss with her the reasons why she was interested in space and how satellites can be better utilized to serve underserved communities. All around, SATELLITE 2022 gave me an experience that cannot be translated through words or images, and I am incredibly thankful that OSSTP and ARDC provided me with this opportunity.

Brooklyn Wakefield

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Attending SATELLITE 2022 and SGx 2022 was a great event for me to learn about both the technical side of the industry and workplace culture. I think that the concepts behind satellites are interesting,  how they can be utilized and how they can help people, but I think that can get dulled out by some of the technical aspects of the industry. What made SGx special was that it was directed towards younger professionals trying to get into the industry, acknowledged the issues of why there is a lack of young people coming in and the lack of socioeconomic and ethnic diversity. Seeing other undergrads like me at the conference with diverse backgrounds helped the satellite industry seem more welcoming and less daunting. SGx did an amazing job at highlighting the importance of satellites in the present but also the relevancy of the satellite industry to a wide variety of professionals in different fields, going beyond the scope of aerospace, electrical, and software engineers. This talk featured three amazing astronauts, two of which were NASA astronauts Daniel Tani, B. Alvin Drew, and one of the first commercial astronauts Chris Boshuizen. They all shared a vision of a world where everyone would get to go to space. Personally, after going to SATELLITE 2022, I feel a newfound investment in the research of satellites because I gained a better sense of everything satellites can do to improve the lives of millions and how satellites will continue to be essential to the advancement of technology around the world. I think I felt a slight disconnect from my work because I could write and talk about satellites but I never got to see them in person and engage with the makers of the technology.  Talking with and interacting with many industry leaders in the exhibit hall was an amazing and valuable experience.

Braden Oh

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As a junior, I am looking forward to applying to graduate school next year, but my range of interests is incredibly broad.  I went to SATELLITE  2022 seeking an answer to the question of where I should spend my research career to best contribute to the field.  This conference (and SGx in particular) gave me the opportunity to directly ask industry experts “what are the challenges that you’re facing right now that you wish my generation would spend our time researching?”  This question generated exciting and enlightening answers as I discovered a handful of specific areas of concern shared by NASA, policy writers, and private industry alike! One enormous area of policy concern (especially notable because it was addressed in a talk given by the former NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstein) is management of clutter in low Earth orbit (LEO).  With a foray of companies building satellite constellations larger than ever before seen, the issues of satellite collisions, orbital debris, and traffic control are becoming very real and very dangerous, with very little research or policy directed at maintaining the LEO environment. One significant area of technological interest is in high-thrust engines that can be used to carry humans to Mars.  Although electric propulsion technologies (a particular research area of mine) are well-proven and very efficient, they produce low levels of thrust.  As it turns out, our government (via grants from NASA and DARPA) is interested in developing two nuclear propulsion technologies, nuclear electric (reactors) and nuclear thermal (engines). Through the conversations that revealed these technologies to me, I was also able to meet and collect contact information for former NASA astronauts, policy advisors, economists, engineers, and researchers active across a wide variety of aerospace sectors.  This unique networking opportunity has given me relationships vital to my future graduate research, mentorship, career, and ultimate contribution to my field and to humanity.  SATELLITE  2022 was an incredible experience and I am grateful to this lab and to Olin College for making such an amazing event possible for me.

Charlotte Ramiro

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Talking to Hogan Lovel Lawyer, George.

At the Exhibition Hall!

Visiting SATELLITE 2022 and SGx 2022 was great at giving me insight into what the aerospace and satellite communications industries look like. At Olin, I’ve gotten the chance to interact with industry satellite research projects, but it’s been mostly in collaboration with other Oliners and occasionally reaching out to companies. Going to the conference showed me what it could be like to work in that environment every day. I got a feel for the type of people that I would be working with outside of Olin and the passions and technologies that they share. For example, I noticed that a large concern facing the space industry is sustainability and orbital debris. I was excited to talk to a representative from Astroscale about their plan to tackle the issue. This is a topic that I’m personally very passionate about, so I was happy to have the opportunity to discuss it with experts in the field. Another highlight of the trip for me was the human spaceflight section of the SGx panels. Although most of my work has gone towards satellite communications and connectivity, I found it inspiring to hear from people who had been in space, how it can change humanity and why it’s important that we continue sending people to space. I got the chance to talk briefly to astronaut Dan Tani about his experience as an astronaut, which was a stellar opportunity that I don’t think I could have found elsewhere. We also got to talk to many of Whitney’s industry partners and friends, who gave us good insight into what it takes to be in the sat-comms world as well as advice on how to become better satellite engineers. Overall, going to SATELLITE  and SGx 2022 was an amazing experience and made me all the more excited to continue working in this industry.

Jenna Ocheltree

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The speakers and panels of SGx were insightful and informative. Tanya Harrison, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Planet discussed her shifting career path from astronomy to Mars geology to Earth geology and satellite mapping. While many of the other speakers had significant wealth to back up their projects or discussed experiences less accessible to the average attendee (like the NASA astronauts), Tanya’s presentation was informative about the scope of geological research done within the solar system, the interdisciplinary nature of her careers, and gave permission to the audience members to take our time and shift directions if need be. Her passion for Mars and Earth both were evident, she was a very compelling speaker, and someone I plan to reach out to for further discussion about her work experience. The “Humans in Space” panel was illuminating regarding the different experiences of different astronauts and space tourists, and the multiple paths people can now take to get to space. Astronaut Tani noted to my surprise that even NASA will likely want to recruit astronauts with private space flight experience, who have already logged thousands of hours, instead of continuing their current recruitment model which focuses heavily on highly educated Air Force pilots. Astronaut Drew’s presentation was inspiring and allowed the audience to really connect with the international and cooperative aspect of space travel, something I feel is often lost in commercialized space travel. Will Pomerantz of Virgin Origin spoke eloquently about the ways in which the space industry (and other industries as well) can shift their culture. I was very interested in learning about the structure of the fellowships he helped found and would love to see this style of fellowship in other industries, and more widespread. I greatly enjoyed the exhibit hall as an introduction to the aerospace engineering industry, and the various avenues one can pursue within this field. Relevant to my coursework in Principles of Wireless Communications, Kymeta, Cesium, and Thinkom all develop phased array systems, ideal for communications on moving systems. Each company had their own approach too, and technology – I found the optical lcd technology of Kymeta particularly interesting and am curious to learn more about the hardware they implement, as well as the software to automatically locate a signal. Thinkom primarily is in use on aircraft, filling a much-needed retrofitting niche. I also spoke with Polymertal, an Icelandic company that coats polymers with metals. I spoke with one of their principal scientists and heard more about their bonding process, and the need for this technology. Another group that stood out was a German-based company that designed precision piezo positioning systems. I enjoyed talking to representatives from both these companies, as well as Linearizer, an optical linearizing group, to learn more about the R&D experience in the aerospace industry, from physical principles in addition to EE.

Pranavi Boyalakuntla

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Pranavi Boyalakuntla (right) and Audrey Lee (left) exploring DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival before the first day of the conference.

Institutional culture panel in the SGx conference.

A huge thank you to Dr. Lohmeyer, the OSSTP Group, and the ARDC grant for giving me the opportunity to attend the SGx and SATELLITE  2022 conference. As a senior Electrical and Computer Engineering student in an undergraduate program, I am thinking more deeply about which parts of the aerospace industry I want to contribute to. In particular, I am trying to narrow down which topics I want to supplement my graduate studies in Electrical Engineering with. I came into this experience knowing I was interested in satellite communications, but not entirely sure which specific areas I was interested in. Visiting the SGx conference helped me understand how I, a young professional, play into industry. I feel I have so much more direction regarding which areas of the field I am interested in due to the panels covering space policy, human spaceflight, and institutional culture. On the second day of the trip, we visited companies in the exhibition hall who were kind enough to explain their product and technology to us. On several of these visits, I noticed that my interest in embedded engineering and wireless networks did in fact hold a large place in the development of antennas, satellite communications, and defense communications systems. Before this conference, I had frequently felt that my interests were incredibly niche. Seeing the lines of companies building technologies that I could contribute to while building my skills in the intersection of networking and embedded systems was reassuring and gave me the confidence I needed to pursue this field further. I was also reminded of the importance of policy in the world of communications systems. As a current policy researcher, it was great to be in the DC area and get exposed to the heart of all policy actions. I was even able to attend a Satellite CEO panel where I saw the leaders of the satellite companies I was looking into as a part of my auction policy research! Hearing their opinions on the field first-hand was definitely a highlight. Additionally, meeting people who worked on Capitol Hill and learning more about what their work environment was like and the impacts that they were having refueled my drive to contribute meaningfully to space and spectrum policy in my future. In conclusion, the SGx and SATELLITE 2022 conference was an invaluable experience for me in my career especially as I am at a crossroads in deciding my future goals. I feel very thankful I was able to go and meet so many amazing people and companies. 

Gia-Uyen Tran

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My main goal in attending SATELLITE  2022 was to gain familiarity with the industry and consider whether I would want to pursue a related career path. Satellites are absolutely essential to modern life, but it is an industry that isn’t highly visible to the public. This was the first professional conference  that I have attended. It was interesting to see how networking occurs and how people interact in a professional context. The first day of the conference was SGx. The event was focused less on technical topics and more so on inspiring young professionals to join the aerospace industry. It was a high-level overview of the industry, touching on everything from policy to workplace culture. It helped me understand both the diverse career opportunities in the satellite industry, as well as the varied career paths to get there. The human spaceflight panel and presentations reminded me that working in space necessitates a degree of romanticism about science and humanity – it is not a purely pragmatic endeavor. I appreciated the institutional culture panel. I was able to hear from people like Will Pomerantz, who are addressing the lack of diversity with scholarship programs. As the recipient of a separate scholarship program that has influenced my entire educational journey (and without which I would most likely not be at Olin), I was happy to hear that similar initiatives are occurring in the industry. I spent Day 2 perusing the exhibit hall and talking with individual companies. This day was much less structured, and it was nice to explore more personalized interests. I especially enjoyed a chat with George John, who works extensively on the policy side of the industry. It was a nice reminder that the satellite industry and aerospace involve multidisciplinary work. Aerospace is often stereotyped as NASA + defense companies + “billionaire playgrounds,” but there is obviously more nuance to the industry. My interests are fairly broad – both in engineering and outside of engineering – but there’s something for everyone in aerospace.  SATELLITE 2022 was an insightful experience, and I am grateful for OSSTP and ARDC for the opportunity to attend.

Bryce Mann

Thank you to everyone who made it possible for the students involved in the OSSTP Lab and the Principles of Wireless Communication class to attend SGx and SATELLITE  2022. Having never attended an industry conference before, it was a great opportunity to be exposed to a wide variety of space, satellite, and communications companies, as well as meet an interesting group of attendees. Many of these companies and people are essential to modern life as we know it but get very little thought from the average person; I, at least, had never considered what a day would be like for space policy government staff or lawyers that specialize in space law before meeting those people in DC (among many others). The time we spent at the conference has given me a better perspective on how those industries operate day-to-day. The best part of the conference was definitely the chance to explore the exhibit hall, because it was great to see the diversity in specialties among the companies represented and ask questions about their products and services. I was mostly drawn to the companies that develop their own electrical hardware and was able to compile a list of resources from experienced engineers that will help me improve in a few areas that are valuable for my plans after Olin; they include topics ranging from RF circuit/PCB design to transmission line theory, and even topics that aren’t “satellite” specific like flexible PCB manufacturing processes and capabilities. Coming into Satellite 2022, I knew that industry conferences existed, but didn’t know what to expect; I appreciated the enthusiasm and passion of both the speakers and other attendees.  I was able to talk to and am definitely more informed about these industries, companies, and people than before the conference started. This is my last year at Olin so I won't be able to go with the lab anymore, but hope to run into everyone next year (assuming I can convince my company to send me)!