Space Application Developer Germany - Andreas
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SPACE APPLICATION DEVELOPER GERMANY - ANDREAS
SCISYS DEUTSCHLAND GMBH
Andreas has been employed with SCISYS for 14 years, and he works as a Space Flight Dynamics Application Developer at EUMETSAT in Darmstadt. His special field is the software for the mathematical satellite modelling for orbit and attitude calculations.
What is your job and what does your work involve?
I've been working on behalf of SCISYS at EUMETSAT in Darmstadt, Germany, for 14 years now. EUMETSAT is the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites and is responsible for the processing and dissemination of meteorologically useful information derived from satellite raw data. My job title at EUMETSAT is Space Flight Dynamics Application Developer, and I'm a member of a team of four software engineers.
My team’s main responsibility is the maintenance and development of an integrated ground segment monitoring & control system which provides all functionality required for the planning, operations preparation, and operation of orbit and attitude maintenance manoeuvres and special payload operations. Although I’m involved in all areas of the integrated system, my field of specialisation is the software for the mathematical satellite model and for orbit and attitude calculations.
What is your educational background?
I obtained my degree in meteorology with minors in mathematics and computer science. Afterwards I obtained a PhD in Physics with a thesis on “Airborne Measurements in the Planetary Boundary Layer”. During this time and afterwards I worked for altogether nine years at university in a special research programme dedicated to air safety. This was followed by three years as a scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, where I worked in the department for Physics of Atmosphere Ocean Interaction.
During this time I decided to move into industry and try my luck in software engineering, a discipline I had become very interested in during my previous work. It was ultimately by chance that I ended up in the space industry. The fact that I returned to my initial profession meteorology was a coincidence as well, although I’m actually not really involved with the meteorological department at EUMETSAT in my current role (except for the occasional private contact).
Tell us about your career at SCISYS so far.
After I had already gathered some experience in space software development, I joined SCISYS in early 2001 as a Space Flight Dynamics Engineer and was sent to the ESOC (European Space Operations Centre) in Darmstadt, Germany, as a consultant. In the spring of 2002 I was asked whether I was interested in taking over the position of Onsite Support Engineer for the introductory and commissioning phase of an integrated monitoring & control system that had so far been developed by SCISYS on behalf of EUMETSAT and was close to completion.
After three months’ training in the Chippenham/UK SCISYS offices, I took over this position, supporting the system from the first introductory steps through to its smooth operational service. I subsequently worked for several months at the SCISYS office in Darmstadt on different duties. During this time SCISYS was successful in winning a consultancy contract with EUMETSAT, which established the role I still work in. After the establishment of a German SCISYS office I formally changed employers from SCISYS UK to SCISYS Deutschland GmbH.
What tools and skills do you use in your role?
The satellite monitoring & control system I work with is one of only a few of its kind which run on Microsoft Windows platforms. The major part of the software is written in C++ and modules implementing physical and mathematical procedures are written in FORTRAN. A smaller part of the software is written in Java and Visual Basic. Development is carried out in a Microsoft Visual Studio Development environment with an Intel FORTRAN Plugin. Before I joined this area I was more of a Unix (or even mainframe) guy, and Windows felt like a very different world.
That’s not to say one world is better than the other – both have their advantages and disadvantages. One thing I like concerning my work at EUMETSAT is that I am at the interface between flight dynamics engineering and software engineering; in this position I’m engaged in physical and mathematical problems as well as in software development.
What kind of projects are you working on at the moment?
During the last few months we have been working primarily on system virtualisation, so that in the near future all system software will run on virtual machines. (If you don’t know what a VM is, please Google!) In parallel we upgraded to a later version of the operating system, and we compiled and built the software with a newer version of the development environment. A future project is improving the configurability of the system with regard to ground stations; in the existing system the number and functionality of ground stations is fixed to a certain degree.
What do you like most about your job at SCISYS?
As an employee I always felt like I’ve been treated fairly by the company.
What, in your opinion, are some emerging trends in your specific field?
Beyond operating system virtualisation – which is by now increasingly performed also in the space application area – a big focus currently is the transition from mission-oriented to function-oriented systems. For space software this means that software projects are no longer designed around a certain mission (e.g. geostationary vs. polar orbiting). For instance in the future there may be a multi-mission flight dynamics facility instead of a specific flight dynamics module for each mission. The central question in this case is – as in many other application areas – how the project can be structured to maximise generic functionality.