Welcome to the latest feature in our ‘Day in the life’ series with Andrew Mackie – Space Systems Engineer.

Andrew Mackie - Space Systems Engineer at In-Space Missions

What made you interested in space and engineering?

I have been interested in space from a young age and have always been curious and fascinated by the unknown. We continue to push the envelope of technology – and leveraging this to both explore more and do more in space excites me. To be able to apply this interest through an engineering role where I can continue to develop myself, my understanding and the technology I use seems like a no brainer to me.

Where did you study and how did you find your way to In-Space Missions?

I studied Astrophysics at University of Edinburgh before joining Leonardo where I gained invaluable engineering experience. Here I was exposed to engineering in industry and I was enabled to fill my skills gaps. I had a lot of experienced and intelligent people to learn from and I enjoyed the opportunities that came along. From here, I found myself looking for a new challenge – and thus ended up at In-Space Missions.

What made you apply to join In-Space Missions?

I got to a juncture where I felt I had the skills to do something that would enable me to make meaningful impact in the industry and was looking to further expand on both these skills and my knowledge set. I was looking for my next challenge in something high tech, and preferably space based, and I came across In-Space Missions and they were recruiting. I could see that this was a small company with great (realisable)ideas - as it still is today. During my interview with Tony I saw how passionate he and the rest of the team are about everything that they were doing and their plans for the future; it was less of an interview in the end and more of a conversation. I could see that it would be a good fit with my skill set and that I would have exciting opportunities where I could contribute and add value with an experienced team to learn from.

What is your specific role and typical day?

My typical day flexes as the lifecycle of projects moves onwards. Currently, Attitude and Orbit Control Systems (AOCS) development is my primary role as well as tooling. I am both designing and implementing for the next generation of spacecraft that we are developing - to improve how they fly and point - as well as providing support to Faraday-Phoenix in orbit! I regularly test the hardware and software in the lab and liaise with members of the team to see what projects they are working on and what their future AOCS requirements will be across the company.

Another aspect of my job is enhancing the engineering capability of the company, automating the repetitive tasks. This really interests me, allowing me to leverage the powers of technology to empower the engineers to do their job better, freeing them up to do the more interesting aspects of their work.

I am also involved in the company process and policy development, a key aspect of this which I enjoy is helping my colleagues to develop as individuals and in their careers and bring the best out of them. It is always nice to see people improve and having this structure in place allows for symbiotic learning between me and my colleagues.

Describe a typical day?

This depends on the Life Cycle of projects. I am involved in the design and architecture work and solving problems. I take the design work and implement it both in the lab and in software simulations working out how the hardware and software integrates while checking that everything is working in the way that it should ready for when it is in space.

Recently I have been working with our satellite, Faraday Phoenix, which is now in orbit. I am checking on the Attitude systems to ensure they are working correctly and trying to work though the things that we had planned and some of the things that are not working as we expected. Working with the satellite takes time due to transmission considerations – such as pass availability and link budgets, it can interrupt your planned day but I enjoy this challenge and adapting according to whatever is most urgent, it is all part of the attraction of the job.

How does your experience fit in with the work at In-Space?

At university I gained a lot of simulation and data analysis experience which has been very useful, it feeds into my work very well. At Leonardo I picked up a lot of engineering experience and spent some time improving tooling and I can now see how things that I learned in the past are relevant today. I strive to build on this previous experience and implement better solutions with my work at In-Space Missions.

I picked up general engineering skills earlier on in my career and I apply this day to day depending on what needs doing. My previous role saw me support the team with flight trials and I find that there are similarities and lessons which I can populate across to spacecraft operations and bring the best of some aerospace practices with me.

What have you been specifically working on in the last year and how has that been during the pandemic?

The pandemic provided its challenges, as I’m sure it has to any company. We have done well to remain strong in collaboration throughout. Arrangements were made so that we could come into the lab safely to physically interact with the electronics in order to keep the project going to plan. I always felt safe and well guided by the company throughout this busy period of testing.

It has been varied and fast pace work over the last year. From design work of new satellites and tooling to support these to the recent successful launch of Faraday-Phoenix where I have been spending a lot of time checking it is operating as expected and applying myself to the problems facing the team along the way.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Normally I like to travel and ski but the pandemic has put a downer on this so I have spent a lot more time indoors, like so many other people, doing a lot of online quizzes and online games. Now the weather has improved I like to cycle and to be out in the fresh air.

Article  by In-Space Missions
Date: 30th September 2021