WMN in Space

The number of women employed in the international space industry represents around 20 percent of the workforce, according to figures released by the UN; roughly the same proportion as 30 years ago. When Redwire opened their European Headquarters in Luxembourg, LUX WMN sat down with some of the female team at Redwire Europe Luxembourg to find out what it means to be a woman in the space industry!
07 October 2023

Geetha Rani

I am a Procurement Engineer at Redwire Space Europe. I have worked in the Aerospace industry for 2 years now, prior to which I worked in the Aviation sector. I call Bangalore, India my home. I enjoy intricate doodling, gardening and playing badminton during my free time.

How did you get into the space industry?

Choosing aeronautical engineering during my bachelors was only natural for me as I spent most of my summer vacations in my mother’s office;  she used to work for an Aeronautical defence and research establishment. This choice brought me to the Aerospace industry. Now, I want to stay, learn and explore the vast industry. Everyday is a new challenge.  

What do you love about the space industry? What’s challenging?

I love that the Aerospace industry is highly dynamic and fast paced. There is a new discovery or innovation everyday. The exposure and opportunities this industry provides for a professional like me is infinite. There is no point in time one can feel stagnant in their career.

Is there a woman in the space industry you look up to?

I remember having goose bumps when I was 11 years old and  learned about Kalpana Chawla. Ever since she has been my idol. Also I recently met Chiara Cocchiara during one of my training programs. She is a very humble and encouraging professional who I could relate to and draw inspiration from. 

What is it like being a woman in a male-dominated field? Do you feel any added pressure being a woman in space?

In our company the gender ratio is not too bad but when I go to conferences or supplier visits, I realise how male-dominated the industry is. From time to time, it feels like things are explained to me that I don’t need explanations for. These are times I need to put my foot down and gently draw boundaries in order to not be taken for granted.

What have you learned from working in space that affects other parts of your life?

As a procurement professional in the rapidly growing Space industry, making and maintaining new connections with professionals/ suppliers across the industry is important. Extending these skills in my personal life has helped me to build a social circle away from my home country. 

What’s the craziest thing you’ve learned about space in your career?

Cubesats are satellites that are 10 centimetre cubes weighing less than 2kg, and they help us obtain data from space and explore space further.

Aurélie Bressollette

I am Head of Programs for Redwire Space. I have worked for 20 years in the space business! I have a Diplôme d’Ingénieur from Ecole Centrale Paris with a specialisation in Aerospace Engineering, and a Master of Science in Aeronautics & Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

I worked at Airbus in various positions, OHB in Bremen, Germany and finally ended up joining Redwire in October 2021 to my greatest satisfaction, as responsible for programme management, processes, procurement and many more things!

How did you get into the space industry?

Well I did not get into space – I tried, my plan was to become an astronaut after getting my diploma in the US. My plans changed when September 11th erupted, and I left the United States because doors closed in major aerospace entities for non-US citizens. As for working in the space business, it has been with me since I studied and it quickly became an addiction. I tried working in different fields through my different roles but always came back to space! 

What do you love about the space industry? What’s challenging?

Definitely the feeling of ever pushing boundaries, just the fact that so few human beings have been in space means that it’s still a rather unexplored territory. Sending hardware and people that can actually operate out there is fascinating, and not just for those who work in the field! I also love this feeling of a community; as I mentioned earlier, people become addicted to it and the more you understand, the more you embrace each challenge as a personal accomplishment. You have the feeling that you are really contributing to something special.

Is there a woman in the space industry you look up to?

Claudie Haigneré who was the first French woman to travel to outer space.

What is it like being a woman in a male-dominated field? Do you feel any added pressure being a woman in space?

No added pressure, just an observation that indeed it is a male-dominated field, and I would love to see more women embrace such a career. Personally, I strive to be considered as a competent person who can add her own brick to the edifice, I do not want to be considered differently if I am male or female.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve learned about space in your career?

The paradox of the twins: that one twin who stays a few months in space will be younger than his twin brother when he returns to Earth!

Serket Quintanar Guzmán

Currently, I lead the electronics department at Redwire Space Europe, developing electronics subsystems to support space-qualified actuators and robotic systems. I have worked in space for three years. I am originally from Mexico. I have a bachelor’s degree in Electromechanical Engineering, and a Master’s Degree in Electronics from the Instituto Tecnológico Nacional de México. In 2015,  I moved to Luxembourg and got a double Ph.D. in Engineering Science and Automatic Control from the University of Luxembourg and the Université de Lorraine. 

How did you get into the space industry?

When I was about to graduate from my PhD studies, Made in Space Europe (MISUE), now Redwire Space Europe, was about to be founded and was looking for engineers interested in joining the company. I was always interested in research and technology development, and the project that MISEU was pursuing was so challenging and innovative that it got all my interest. Before joining MISEU I had never considered a career in the space sector. It is not something you hear of on a daily basis.

What do you love about space? 

The thing I like the most about space technology is the challenge that it implies. The extreme environment this technology has to survive in pushes the limits of what we know and fuels us to innovate and create things we never thought of before. Finding new solutions and solving complicated puzzles to develop a design and achieve our goals.

Is there a woman in the space industry you look up to?

I admire Katherine Johnson, who was a pioneer for her time and led the way for so many women engineers in a time where that wasn’t even an option.

What is it like being a woman in a male-dominated field? Do you feel any added pressure being a woman in space?

I decided that I wanted to become an engineer when I was 8 years old. I never questioned myself about if it was adequate or appropriate for a woman to pursue a career typically assigned to men. I just knew that it was my passion and what I wanted to dedicate my life to. I have the fortune to have a mom that supported me all the way and never made me wonder if I was making the right decision. I think my attitude is a big part of why I never felt out of place or felt any kind of pressure by being in a male-dominated field. 

What have you learned from working in space that affects other parts of your life?

I would say to think out of the box, and try to analyse the problems from a different perspective. This is a recurrent and necessary ability when designing space technology. Common solutions do not always work in these extreme environments, and new solutions must be found and created to solve the challenges that outer space brings.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve learned about space in your career?

There are so many crazy things that happen to electronics in space. Maybe the one that surprised me the most was “tin whiskers”. Microscopic whiskers that grow due to thermal cycling and vacuum environments on anything made out of tin. No one has been able to explain exactly why this happens or exactly under what circumstances. It’s a bit of a mystery that causes huge disruptions on any electronics design working in outer space.

Fiona Boyce 

I’m a Mechanical Design Engineer at Redwire Space Europe. I’ve been working in the space industry for 3 years, first as a satellite operator in London and then switching to mechanical design in Luxembourg. When I’m not working, I’m usually climbing with friends or planning a trip somewhere in the mountains.  

What do you love about the space industry? What’s challenging?

It’s exciting to think that things I’ve worked on will leave this planet, not to mention the technical challenges of space (vacuum, extreme temperatures, etc.) add an interesting layer of complexity onto already interesting engineering challenges.  

Is there a woman in the space industry you look up to?

Martina Pippa, who inspires me with her professionalism in the laboratory and teaches me useful and technical Italian words to improve my communication skills while developing my appreciation of Italian culture.

What have you learned from working in space that affects other parts of your life?

Everything we put into space has to be clean. Really clean. My first year in Luxembourg was spent making sure a lot of our components were clean enough to go into vacuum chambers for testing, and ensuring we had the right protocols in our lab to facilitate this. It’s made my home life really messy, because the last thing I want to do when I go home is clean more.

Martina Pippa

I studied aerospace engineering, and I am a mechanical engineer at Redwire Space Europe in the AIT Division (Assembly, Integration and Test). This is my first job after my studies. I moved to Luxembourg  from Italy with my little dog to start an internship at Redwire and after 6 months I  became a full-time employee.

How did you get into the space industry?

I have always been fascinated by the aerospace industry, how much it has changed many aspects of our lives, how the technology is becoming more and more advanced to let humanity go further and further away, to overcome limits, but also to be able to look at our home from a different perspective.

What do you love about the space industry? What’s challenging?

Since I work for the AIT division, the most challenging part (and honestly the aspect I like the most), is how much attention you have to pay to the smallest details. Everything has to be perfectly inspected, cleaned and built to survive in a crazy hostile environment.

Is there a woman in the space industry you look up to?

I could answer with one of the amazing women VIPs of the space industry… but honestly the ones who inspire me the most are all my colleagues who I watch everyday working so hard, running from one part of the office to the other and pushing themselves to carry on the work.

What is it like being a woman in a male-dominated field? Do you feel any added pressure being a woman in space?

I have really never cared too much about it. I have just followed my passion, and I am trying to do my best to make a contribution in the space industry. Fortunately society is changing, so I hope that in a few years these types of questions will not exist anymore.

What have you learned from working in space that affects other parts of your life?

Every day  it pushes me to consider small details. Even now in my personal life I have become more rigorous in my daily organisation. In addition, it gave me confidence in my technical skills, and so now I am a great IKEA furniture builder!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve learned about space in your career?

In space everything is crazy. The change of gravity, the temperatures, the vibrations during launch. It is very hard to appreciate the difficulties of launching something capable of operating in space. It also affects every aspect of our projects, from the general design to the choice of every single screw that you have to insert.