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David Evans

Mr Evans is a reference point at the European Space Agency when Satellite Operations come into play

The SpaceInfo Club had the pleasure to ask mr Evans some questions about his career at the European Space Agency. Here are some questions, don't forget to join the members club, which is free, to get the full interview inside the next editions of the Magazine!

Can you share your journey from your early days at ESA/ESOC working on classic missions like ERS-2 and CLUSTER to your transition into the commercial sector with EUTELSAT? How did these experiences shape your career path?

I started my ESOC career in 1992, when I joined the EURECA mission. It was six months before launch and there was a major problem with the mission planning system which was based primarily on manual data entry. With 15 experiments, all having different constraints and each having multiple operations per day, it was impossible to use the system operationally. All the other flight control team members were focussed on preparing for the approaching launch, so another colleague and I were left without help or budget. We ended up solving the problem by writing thousands of lines of code of our office PCs to produce the perfect plan before it was entered into the “official” planning system. It was extremely hard work and I remember taking my first Sunday off after working for 92 days straight. That experience forged my professional character and taught me many lessons which were very useful later. After EURECA ended I became interested in training and managed the simulation campaigns for the ERS-2 and CLUSTER-1 launches. I still take immense pleasure in seeing operational teams develop when placed under just the right amount of pressure. At ESOC, it is the job of the simulation officer to get that balance right, but when you do, it’s the best job in the world. It was this aspect of my career that brought me to EUTELSAT in 1997 when they asked me to join them as their training officer.

During your time at EUTELSAT, you played a key role in managing the operation execution services for the satellite fleet, overseeing its expansion from 5 to 19 satellites. What were the most significant challenges you faced, and how did you ensure effective cost control during this period? Your expertise includes operational management, fleet operations, and low-cost solutions. How do you balance the need for efficiency and cost-effectiveness in the operation of satellite fleets, especially during periods of expansion?

Initially I was asked to join EUTELSAT on a six-month contract to introduce the operational staff to their new satellite bus. Up until then they had operated 5 satellites with the same bus but now the fleet was rapidly expanding with more satellites and buses. Sometimes there were four satellite launches a year on the schedule. At the same time, the operational team was extremely small and this meant that everyone had to do multiple jobs. I was providing on-call support for different satellites, procuring simulators from different manufacturers and working on procedure automation systems… all at the same time as providing training. It was like being caught up in a whirlwind and a great period in my life. Then two things happened; firstly we experienced too many operational mistakes and at the same time, the company transitioned from being an intergovernmental agency into a commercial company. Imagine privatising ESA and you can imagine what a change that was! During the resulting re-organisation, I was asked to move into a management position where I had to consider the cost of the operations as well as the technical aspects. We continued to expand and replenish the fleet, re-orbiting old satellites and launching new ones, all without increasing the manpower in my area. I discovered that you cannot ask people to do more without empowering them at the same time. Sometimes you also have to change their tools. I remember a particularly pleasurable six weeks when I asked my deputy to cover me while I coded a new mission planning system - based on my EURECA experience – and we used it for many years.


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