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OTTAWA – Look up at the night sky and you’ll see stars, planets and airplanes. When Cory Fraser looks on, he takes a professional interest in what’s there. Merigomish is a communications systems engineer for local Telesat.
Communications systems engineering, according to Fraser, involves the design, integration, and management of complex telecommunications systems. His work is focused on working on a specific project that can pay dividends for people around the world. News asked Fraser to give us an idea of what he’s been up to.
Q: You seem to be working on satellites, is that correct?
Answer: Telesat operates spacecraft that transmit and receive signals to and from Earth, allowing us to enjoy things like satellite television, satellite radio, and satellite Internet. I am currently working on Project Lightspeed, in which we are developing a system using 188 spacecraft in low Earth orbit (LEO) to provide high-speed internet worldwide. Historically, satellite Internet has been notorious for unstable service and slow speeds, but Project Lightspeed will deliver satellite Internet performance that rivals fiber-optic Internet technology. This is a big step towards bridging the digital divide and giving more people access to fast and reliable internet, as Project Lightspeed will allow us to bring internet services to remote and rural areas that are traditionally too isolated for normal fiber internet services.
Q: What is your role at Project Lightspeed?
A: I collaborate with a multidisciplinary team of experts, each of whom understands a particular aspect of the system, such as electrical engineers, software engineers, and spacecraft engineers. As a systems engineer, my job is to understand how the whole system works when all these subsystems come together. One way I understand how our system works is through computer simulations; satellites are very expensive to launch, so before we send anything up there, we do a lot of simulations and analysis to make sure the system works the way we want it to. I help develop these simulation and analysis tools using all kinds of fun math, physics, and computer coding. Sometimes we’re only interested in performance numbers, but sometimes we want a visual understanding of how things will look, and so I’ve been doing quite a bit of work to create images and videos of what the Lightspeed Project 188 spacecraft will look like. Orbit around the earth.
Q: Why did you get into this field? Did you start out as an aviation enthusiast and go from there?
A: Airplanes are certainly impressive feats of engineering and technology in their own right, but space has captivated my heart since those first nights I remember standing on the shores of the Northumberland Strait and looking up at the sky. I’ve been fascinated by space since my early teenage years, and overall it’s been a very methodical and deliberate way to get into the space industry. Space has always seemed grand and mysterious to me – palpably close yet unimaginably far away – and as I learned how engineers and scientists are using technology to both explore space and improve our lives on Earth, I found myself increasingly drawn to it. a career in the space industry. I pursued a career in spacecraft engineering because it is the perfect blend of the subjects I am passionate about: space, physics, mathematics, intelligence, and advancing the technological capabilities of humanity.
Q: Have you worked on anything that goes into space?
A: I haven’t worked on anything that goes into space yet, but contributing to something that’s launched into space is definitely a big career goal for me and something that’s motivated me since I first got into engineering. If Project Lightspeed goes ahead as planned, I suspect I’ll be able to say a resounding yes to that question within the next few years. Many of our launchers for the Lightspeed satellite fleet have already been ordered, so I’m excited to head down south when it’s time to watch a rocket or two launch!
Q: What’s next for you? Do you plan to become an astronaut someday? Would you like to go to space? Or to Mars?
A: Although astronauts in general, and Chris Hadfield in particular, played a big role in inspiring me to pursue a career in the space industry, I’ve always found my answer to this question somewhat difficult. The path to becoming an astronaut is incredibly difficult. Living and working in space is incredibly demanding, and at this point trying to turn the humanities into a space race, getting to or living on Mars is incredibly dangerous and likely a one-way trip. So, while I’d love to go to space (and then return safely to Earth) someday, I’m not actively targeting my career as an astronaut. Until it becomes as common for humanity to travel and live in space as transatlantic flight, I am excited to focus my efforts on contributing to the technological advancements we can achieve using autonomous spacecraft, robots, and artificial intelligence.
Q: You are also a triathlete. Are triathlons and your engineering career similar in any way? Or is one a nice break from the other?
A: Yes, I have been involved in the triathlon community for the better part of the last decade and have coached with the Ontario provincial program for the last eight years. I’m a big believer in the role of movement and physical health in supporting mental health and optimizing overall well-being, and many of the skills I’ve developed throughout my time as an athlete and coach are transferable to my engineering career. . Additionally, triathlon serves to balance the sedentary aspects of engineering for me, while also allowing me to give back to the community and enjoy lots of time outdoors.
In terms of similarities, I would say there are a few overlaps between my work as an engineer and my work as a coach, and I think one of the biggest is the desire to understand how things work. I am always curious to understand how things work and understand the reasons behind them. In engineering it looks like understanding the physics or mathematics or logical processes of a system, but in exercise it looks like understanding how we train certain energy systems or develop certain athletic skills. Other qualities that overlap well between engineering and triathlon include the ability to focus, a sense of determination, and the will to persevere, whether you’re tackling a hill on a bike, helping a new athlete develop their swimming stroke, or debugging code that predicts how things will fly in space, current adapting to the challenge and focusing on what you can control really helps with efficiency. Efficiency is key in sports and professional life, especially when it comes to time management. Both triathlon and engineering work require excellent time management skills to handle the many tasks and activities you want to engage in each day.
Despite these similarities, it’s certainly fair to say that time spent swimming, cycling, running or training is my playtime, which provides a nice break from staring at a computer screen or poring over engineering data. On the other hand, engineering satisfies my desire to solve problems and explore complex systems, so my sports activities and engineering work generally complement each other nicely. Since triathlon is an endurance sport dominated by GPS watches and power meters, triathlon certainly lends itself well to people like me who like to work with data, numbers and graphs.
Q: Now, on to the really important stuff. What contact have you had with aliens? What do they say to you? Should we expect a visit soon?
A: Admittedly, my work focuses more on sending signals between Earth and our near-Earth spacecraft than deep space, but I’m always interested to hear what new discoveries are coming out of observatories like the SETI Institute and James. The Webb Space Telescope! All things considered, as far as I know, I have had no contact with aliens. I promise. To be honest, I’m okay with that, because my suspicion is that any such experience would be either horribly jarring or downright awful!
But do we get a chance to visit soon? I think there’s always a chance – when you consider that our sun is only one of over 100 billion stars in our galaxy, and our galaxy is only one of over 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, it’s obvious that the sheer extent of our planet. the space around us is incomprehensibly vast. Furthermore, we know that the conditions that allow life to flourish are indeed possible, so however small the odds of life forming in a different star system, those odds seem very high when you look at them on the scale of the universe. we are hardly the only life forms in existence. All that being said, there’s a chance, but we probably shouldn’t expect a visit anytime soon.