Speaker Interview: Carrie O’Quinn, Senior Project Engineer, Aerospace Corporation

Carrie O’QuinnSpace Tech Expo is only a few months away and we would like to introduce you to some of the speakers joining in the Conference. This week’s Speaker Interview is Carrie O’Quinn, senior project engineer at the Aerospace Corporation.

Carrie O’Quinn will be speaking on the 'Providing Maximum Launchability – A Guide to Defined Smallsat Classification' session on Tuesday May 22 at the Space Tech Conference 2018.

 


Hi Carrie, could you please tell us a little bit more about your role as senior project engineer at The Aerospace Corporation?

I advise the government on various projects, primarily the area of SmallSat and CubeSat launches. A majority of my work has been with interface verification of ride-shares and do-no-harm to the primary satellite for ride-share missions.

 

What would you say are the key challenges and opportunities in the launch and satellite systems industries at present?

Some of the key challenges and opportunities that I see in the launch and satellite system industries are related to the mismatch of launch solutions to satellites. For many of the SmallSats and CubeSats, the only option for launch is to ride along as a ride-share with a primary satellite. The ride-share satellite has no control over the orbit, schedule, or launch operations. This can limit the mission objectives of the small satellite or CubeSat if they must modify their orbit or schedule based on the needs of the primary satellite.

 

You will be speaking on Providing Maximum Launchability – A Guide to Defined Smallsat Classification session @ The Launch Systems day on Tuesday, May 22. Your presentation will focus on smallsat classification. Why is this topic of such importance?

Right now, we’re at a crossroads of the advancement of two industries. We’re seeing a proliferation of small satellites (those less than 50 kg) and the development of several small launch vehicles. As these two industries become more significant in the space industry, they would both benefit from standardization of small satellite to launch vehicle interfaces.

 

quoteHow will this classification help the small and large launcher industries? 

By developing standards for small satellites, our working group is also standardizing the small and large launcher interfaces for the small satellites. It is our goal to define standards such that the small and large launch vehicles can develop missions independent of the small satellite details. This will, in essence, allow both the launch vehicles and the satellites to develop independent of one another. We’re hopeful that eventually launch vehicle developers can schedule launches and the satellite providers can come in late in the integration flow (a few months before launch) and secure a ride without the launch vehicle providers needing to repeat mission specific analyses.

 

How do you think the small launcher and small satellite industries will develop going forward?

I never pretend to be able to predict how the industry will develop, but I’m extremely excited by the number of companies developing small satellite constellations and the number of companies developing small launch vehicles. If only a small percentage of these companies are successful, I believe it will create a radical shift in the way the space industry operates.

 

In terms of industry news, what development, announcement, or otherwise has stood out most to you in the past year?

In the past year, I’ve been most fascinated by the development of multiple small launch vehicles. The successful orbital launch of the Rocket Lab Electron in January and the successful test flights of other small launch vehicles are evidence of the advancement of the small launcher industry.

 

We’re looking forward to seeing you at the Conference at Space Tech Expo. Can you tell us what you’re most looking forward to at the show?

What I’m most looking forward to at the show is the significant focus on the launch industry. I’m a launch geek at heart and it’s rare to have a conference spend so much time on the launch piece of the equation, when we all know that it’s a highly risky but critically important part of the mission.


Don't miss Carrie O’Quinn speaking on the 'Providing Maximum Launchability – A Guide to Defined Smallsat Classification' session on Tuesday May 22 at the Space Tech Conference 2018.