Andrew Bertino and John Springmann are two young engineers making a difference in the small satellite space. Bertino, assembly integration and test lead at Spaceflight, guides a team of seven people responsible for putting together all the systems that Spaceflight builds. Springmann, lead engineer at BlackSky, which Spaceflight owns but operates as a separate entity, is responsible for architecting and implementing all the ground infrastructure to receive data from a planned constellation of 60 imaging SmallSats.
Bertino and Springmann entered the industry through different paths. For Bertino, it was television programs like PBS’ Nova series that primed an interest in space. Springmann started with an interest in aerospace, and caught the “space bug” after participating in NASA programs as a college student. Both are passionate about the impact of the satellite and space industry.
“We are working on global imaging to be able to monitor the world in real time and to explore parts of the world regardless of whether or not you are able to physically access it. It goes along with the way we see the world, the interconnectedness of it all,” says Bertino.
Each has different perspectives, however, on if the Millennial Generation is genuinely excited about this field. Bertino says yes, but to an extent.
“The folks in our generation who follow it are very excited,” he says, citing the impact of social media. “All the developments in our industry are able to be pushed out to the general public such as live streams of launches, like the recent SpaceX ones.
Springmann thinks “yes and no,” saying that the generation inside the industry feels the pulse of excitement, especially thanks to new commercial entrants, but this has not necessarily led to a concomitant rise in interest outside of the industry bubble. “Overall, I don’t think my generation has a full grasp or appreciation for what the space industry really enables … [which is] somewhat unfortunate given that nearly everyone carries a smartphone that is connected to GPS, which is a space-based platform. Everyone just thinks that’s easy and available without appreciating the infrastructure behind those capabilities,” he says.
Over the next 10 years, Springmann and Bertino anticipate major changes will continue to shape the industry. Springmann points to real time data about Earth — BlackSky’s goal — as a near term stepping stone on the path to reaching other worlds. Bertino expects launches will increase in frequency and in success, further lowering the barrier to space for new entrants. This future requires more sharp engineers like both of them to bring fresh energy, ideas and visions into the industry. VS