Up, Up And Away: Australian Women Launching Space Careers With Airbus

Michael Sheather
on 12 December 2022

A group of young Australian women are reaching for the stars as unprecedented investment in space exploration opens an astronomical array of career opportunities.

The sky is the limit for the first of Australia’s best and brightest young women engineers who will soon take up internships in the UK where they will work on live international space missions.

The successful interns –  Hayley Nitschke, Sophie Hagley, and Meaghan Munro – are the first to be selected under the Airbus Space Internship Program, which is part of the UK-Australia Space Bridge Framework Arrangement which aims to expand and develop the space industries in both countries.

As such these initial three appointments may be viewed as through the prism of a new and burgeoning Australian space sector that will continue to flourish and contribute to national economic growth as global investment in space exploration ramps up during the next decade.

That investment will open abundant opportunities, now and into the future, for young Australians, particularly for young women looking to fill jobs in the formerly male-dominated space and technology sectors.

Airbus Defence and Space, a sponsor of the Airbus Space internship Program and global pioneer in aerospace industries, is also deeply involved in the UK-AUST Space Bridge program.

The corporation says it is committed to the ongoing transfer of technical ability from the UK to Australia to help support the growth of the Australian sovereign space industry.

The global corporation is also behind Team Maier, a joint project between Airbus, key Australian space and technology companies and Australian academics, to supply the Australian JP9102 milsatcom program, a $3 billion project, to create a sovereign military satellite communication capability for Australia.

Team Maier proposes a sovereign satcom system similar to the UK Skynet satellite communications system and based on the latest Skynet 6A satellite.

Deloitte Access Economics says the Airbus proposal for JP9102 will deliver an additional $437 million benefit to the economy.

And it is into this massive UK satellite communications system that the Australian interns will be placed, allowing them to accrue invaluable experience that will help build the international competitiveness and capability of Australian business in the global space sector.

Students will be given an end-to-end satellite and spacecraft engineering experience – from payload design to manufacturing and operation – across a range of missions, including military satcom, telecoms, and space exploration, with the program expanding into the future.

“Space technology already touches every corner of modern society and Australia has an opportunity to be a leader in this emerging economy,” says Martin Rowse, who is Director of Space – Australia, Airbus Defence and Space.

“While we have amazing tech and engineering talent in Australia, we can speed the development of future leaders up through giving them lived experience of missions.

“The Airbus Space Internship is therefore an essential program to transfer the knowledge required to build Australia’s sovereign space industry and we’re proud to be the first organisation selected by Austrade and the Australian Space Agency to offer this.”

Jennifer Mackinlay, Austrade’s General manager for Europe says the UK and Australia share future ambitions for space.

“The UK-Australia Space Bridge, signed in 2021, was designed to strengthen the ties between our countries as well as grow the number of jobs and capability across our respective space industries,” she says.

“Australia’s space sector was valued at A$4.8 billion in 2019 and is forecast to grow to $12 billion by 2030, creating up to 20,000 new jobs. Space is a multidisciplinary domain and needs all sorts of skillsets and types of people.

“The Airbus Intern Program is a great example of practical bilateral collaboration supported by the Space Bridge. It addresses the industry’s needs in relation to future workforce, creating new career pathways into highly skilled jobs in emerging technology sectors.”

Find out more about the Airbus in Australia Pacific Graduate Program, here.

For more stories on women in space click here.

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