Queensland's Role in Aerospace Technology and How to Get into the Industry
As human beings, we love to explore. In fact, many believe it’s what we were made for. When it comes to exploration, Earth’s atmosphere is one of the most fascinating and vast areas of interest we have come across. That’s why it’s at the forefront of the aerospace technology industry, a budding field in both academia and the workforce.
Aerospace technology refers to the research, design, manufacturing, and operation of technology that is designed to travel across and beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Examples of these technological developments include aircrafts (e.g. airplanes and helicopters), rockets, and satellites.
In Australia – particularly in Queensland – the industry is undergoing some exciting developments that make it a promising field for new graduates. Griffith University recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Gold Coast-based company Gilmour Space Technologies. The partnership will oversee the development of locally developed low Earth orbit (LEO) prototype satellites, set to be launched in 2023.
Speaking with Insider Guides, Doctor Paulo de Souza, Head of the School of Information and Communication Technology at Griffith University, shared his insights on where the aerospace technology sector stands today and where it’s going.
A new chapter at Griffith University
Griffith University’s partnership with Gilmour Space Technologies is the first of its kind, and sets the university apart as an industry leader. The MOU has three main components, says Paulo:
The first relates to the development of a unique satellite. Usually, universities build CubeSats, miniature satellites that are approximately 10cm x 10cm x 10cm in dimension. The satellite being developed under this new MOU has a volume that is roughly 72 times larger. “This [will be] the biggest satellite ever built in Australia,” says Paulo.
The second component relates to the future of the workforce here in Australia. PhD students participating in the partnership will have the opportunity to work in Gilmour Space Technologies’ labs, developing star trackers and software programs that will be used for the project. According to Paulo, this invaluable experience will likely improve their chances of securing a job after they complete their studies.
The third component is to boost collaboration within the sector. When it comes to sending any kind of object into space, there are many factors at play, says Paulo. As a result, all parties involved in manufacturing, material sciences and metallurgy must collaborate to ensure the satellite will withstand its trip to space and return to Earth.
Aerospace technology in Queensland
Queensland is rich with opportunity when it comes to getting involved in the aerospace technology sector. Known as an aviation hub in the Asia-Pacific region, Queensland is home to more than 31 per cent of establishments within the Australian aerospace segment.
Additionally, as Paulo points out, the state is close to the equator, which makes launches less costly. Its east coast position is also extremely beneficial, as east is the preferred direction for launches.
Queensland boasts “world-class capability in terms of research,” says Paulo. Queensland universities – such as Griffith University, University of Queensland, and Queensland University of Technology – are home to incredible research facilities. They also teach complementary skill sets that support progress within the industry.
Queensland is home to many large aerospace companies, such as Boeing and Northrop Grumman. This creates unique employment opportunities in the state. According to Paulo, the sector is continuously diversifying, which we are seeing through the emergence of small- and medium-sized space companies in the state.
The future of work
The aerospace industry is growing rapidly – a promising sign of job growth for new graduates. As Paulo highlights, aerospace technology plays a key role in many important local initiatives, from bushfire monitoring to GPS development to weather systems tracking. As a result, there is a high need for talent.
In June 2018, the Queensland government acknowledged this need and committed to heavy investment in the industry. The Queensland Aerospace 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan confirmed this dedication, with its aim to create high-value, knowledge-based jobs in the aerospace sector.
It’s also important to note that skills developed in other sub-sectors – such as engineering, cybersecurity, chemistry, biology, telecommunications, and artificial intelligence (AI) – are all transferable to the world of aerospace technology.
The first and perhaps most important step in becoming involved, says Paulo, is to believe that you can. While aerospace technology may seem like a complex field of study, it’s much more accessible than you might think.
“Students need to believe in themselves,” says Paulo. He highlights that experts in the field are “just normal people” who are more than willing to discuss opportunities for growth with students. So, don’t be afraid to get involved and ask your professors or tutors for their advice!
Most of all, Paulo concludes, students should focus on having fun and translating their passion into the field. “It’s time for us to dream,” he says with a smile. “[It’s time] to explore because we can. Exploration is part of our DNA. It’s who we are. I think we are on the verge of a new wave of exploration.”