With a background in physics and astronomy, Andy Welton’s college career encouraged students to pursue internships that were purely centered on research. Now a product test engineer at Globalstar, Welton looks back to his junior year when he “broke the mold” by accepting an applied physics and engineering-focused internship at NASA Marshall Space Flight center as what prompted his shift into satellite. Wooed into the industry by its many engineering challenges, he says it was this NASA internship that showed how to use his knowledge of space to impact people’s lives.
“I worked with Dr. James Adams and the cosmic ray group modeling space radiation effects on satellite electronics so satellite engineers could estimate how much radiation their hardware would see over the lifetime of a mission. This taught me that I didn’t need to be interested in research only for curiosity’s sake, but that I could also help people by applying what was learned through these studies,” he says.
Welton’s primary responsibility is to orchestrate the integrated Design Verification Testing (DVT) of Globalstar’s duplex products. His testing helps ensure products are functional and have a smooth end-user experience. Additionally, Welton also assists with the integration of the company’s second-generation duplex modem.
Welton believes that this generation is absolutely excited about the satellite industry, and points to his company has having a number of young, talented engineers on staff.
“Many of my colleagues have gone into careers involving orbital mechanics, remote sensing and radiation management of space hardware. All of these fields are directly tied to the satellite industry, and I only see them growing in the future,” he explains.
Welton mentions the far-reaching impact of telecommunications as one of the highlights of working in the satellite industry. He says that satellite has an important role to play particularly for the roughly 2 billion people living, working or playing beyond the range of terrestrial networks. He points to how Globalstar, through its Spot family of products, has helped initiate more than 4,000 rescues worldwide. Welton expects satellite communications will become more important in people’s lives in future years.
To others seeking careers in the satellite and space industry, Welton says it is important to keep and open mind and to look around extensively. He recommends garnering experience in electrical or mechanical engineering, but adds that — not unlike his own story — those with different backgrounds can still find a niche.
“Any applied science can lead to a career in the satellite industry. For example, there are many physicists, chemists and biologists that are necessary for data analysis and satellite design inputs. There is a place for almost anyone in this industry!” he says. VS