It started in Florida, and ended in Kourou. Sebastien De Zotti, test and electrical systems operations specialist at Arianespace, visited the United States as a kid when he got his first taste of the space industry.
“Since I was a child I dreamt about flying and space exploration,” he says. “I was nine years old when I visited Cape Canaveral Space Center with my father, and I was completely awed by the rockets.”
Two more influential events followed that cemented his place in the industry. De Zotti mentions getting to see the Spot 5 Earth Observation (EO) satellite while he was an intern with Intespace’s climate and test simulation department as one of the first key moments that affirmed his aspirations of working in the space industry. The second was his first witness of an Ariane 5 rollout from its final assembly building to the launch pad at Kourou, French Guiana. He was an intern with the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency, at the time.
“These experiences definitely anchored my desire to join the space industry and especially to work on the European launcher family,” says de Zotti.
Now as part of the engineering and operations directorate in Arianespace’s department of control command systems, de Zotti is involved in launch activities, including campaigns for both the Ariane 5 and Soyuz rockets. Even today he still reflects on his first experience as an Ariane 5 guidance, navigation and control engineer participating in a launch campaign as one of the most powerful moments in his early career.
“The feelings that you experience during the first lift-off are unique,” he says.
De Zotti adds that he anticipates these emotions will rush back with the introduction of Europe’s future launch vehicles and the opportunity to work with them. He notes that competition among launch service providers is becoming more aggressive, compelling Arianespace to work harder.
“From my point of view we have to leverage the benefits of such competition to be always more efficient. This translates to the arrival of a new European launch vehicle by the end of this decade that will open new perspectives,” he says.
The next generation Ariane 6 and Vega C launchers are scheduled for maiden flights in 2020 and 2019 respectively. De Zotti expects the industry to continue changing, with demand for Big Data and global internet access driving the need for more launches. He also says more students are pursuing careers in the space industry, and that this generation has a thorough understanding of how much space impacts people’s everyday lives.
For now as Arianespace prepares to start fielding new rockets, de Zotti says he is looking forward to the opportunity to work on multiple launchers.
“To me this is unique to our generation. We have the chance to participate in an incredible human and technical adventure,” he says. VS