Home > News and views > View all

Women into technology & engineering: how I ended up working in the space business

Published: May 20, 2014 3 min read

STEM learning

Guest blog from Vicki Lonnon, Spacecraft Quality Assurance Engineer, Airbus Defence & Space

If you had asked me at age 14 what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have told you my dream was to become a barrister. So I guess you’re wondering how I ended up working in the space business.

I had always taken an interest in science and enjoyed in particular physics and chemistry, in fact alongside history these were my favourite subjects, but I could never see their use beyond the classroom. Then I happened to get chatting to my physics teacher following a lesson and she helped open my eyes to the possibilities of what I might do if I studied the subject after GCSE.

I remember being handed a leaflet “Rocket Scientists Wanted” and from that point on I was hooked, it just sounded so cool!

I went on to study physics, mathematics and history at A level, which may seem an odd combination at first but to me they perfectly complement one another; I love to know everything about something and so often the things we’re taught in science have an historical context which I also find fascinating, the who how and when of scientific discoveries is just as interesting to me as looking to the future and breaking new ground. I completed a degree in physics with satellite technology at the University of Surrey and it was during my industrial placement year that my eyes were truly opened to the exciting career options available in the space industry.

I joined Astrium (now Airbus Defence and Space) July 2006 as a graduate. My career began in AOCS (Attitude and Orbit Control Systems) designing the “auto-pilot” for a spacecraft and in December 2013 my work flew in Space when GAIA the world’s largest and most advanced space based camera was launched.

I later decided to change roles and I am currently the Quality Assurance Engineer responsible for all assembly, integration and test quality matters for the LISA Pathfinder spacecraft. My job is incredibly varied and interesting. One moment I can be inspecting the spacecraft and the next I am helping to troubleshoot issues that have come up during testing.

Every day is a step closer to the biggest and most exciting adventure in my career to date… the launch! In my role as QA I will be accompanying the spacecraft to the launch in South America and will get to be there when the rocket takes off into space.

My career in STEM is quite literally out of this world!