Let's Space It. Neha Chohan

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11 Jan 2022
5 min read
Let's Space It. Neha Chohan

Space is arguably both finite and infinite while the universe is expanding, and this evokes ambition, excitement and puzzlement in humans. Out of which space technology, designed for space exploration, is born. Thus, it is even more interesting to learn the life stories of people behind innovation and technological development.

In this series of articles, we are introducing our colleagues behind ReOrbit technology. What brought them to the industry, their journeys towards humanity's ongoing expansion across the final frontier, lessons learnt and things they’d create if there were no technological limitations.

Neha Chohan, Lead Systems Engineer at ReOrbit, has always been fascinated by space for the exact same reasons described above: the intrigue of journeying beyond the current boundaries. This is why, having worked at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), having completed her master's in space science and started her career at ReOrbit, Neha still feels every day is a challenge in conquering the unknown. Yet, she would never consider carving a different career path.

Why did you choose space

Space science promises an answer to a lot of fundamental questions, and space engineering calls for the development of new technologies to harness that potential. It feels like the perfect combination of a good journey and destination to me.  

Ever since I came across the news about a rocket launch failure on TV when I was nine or ten, I have been fascinated by space - the ultimate quest. Even now, every day at work feels fresh and exciting because we handle challenges that will be tested in the vast, unforgiving space environment.  

You started your career as

After completing my undergraduate in Aerospace Engineering in 2013, I started working at the Launch Vehicle Division of ISRO. While I enjoyed my work and learnt a lot in the 4 years that I spent there, I realized I wanted to acquire deeper knowledge related to space systems. So, I enrolled in a two-year Erasmus Mundus Master's programme in Space Systems. After graduation, I started my journey with ReOrbit in 2021, first as a Systems Engineer and since September 2022 as a Lead Systems Engineer.

Your most memorable memory so far

It would have to be the memory of the first launch that I witnessed while in ISRO. I was there for the campaign and saw the Launch Vehicle get assembled bit by bit. Finally, there is the countdown on the launch day and the last few seconds feel so exciting and stressful at the same time. The sight of the launch vehicle rising majestically into the sky is something that stays with you forever.  

Your most valuable lesson so far

When working on a satellite or a spacecraft, you realize systems are so complex that there is no straightforward way to design it. You need to go through an iterative process over and over again. If you move even a tiny piece, the entire thing can fall apart. As a subsystems engineer, you learn the importance of interdependence: all you can do at a given moment is to do your part well. For the rest, trust the process. And the people.  

On the other hand, as a systems engineer, you need the whole picture of the process flow and its dependencies. The process must be designed in such a way that design flows smoothly, the deviations are captured, and risks are understood and addressed.  

What nobody prepared you for

That there will be errors no matter how careful you are about the whole thing. It made me realize that one can strive to be as failproof as possible, but it is better to expect pitfalls and have a readiness mindset to deal with them when they come.

The one thing that you will never forget

Teams work best when there is individual humility and collective confidence.

The one thing that makes you smile

When I get to see the systems behave in real life the way they were designed in the simulated models. We start modelling from ideal conditions, and slowly remove assumptions one after the other to bring the system behaviour prediction as close to reality as possible. Then, it is pure joy and satisfaction to see the behaviour of the system in the real mission close to what was predicted by the models.

Imagine there are no technological limitations, what do you wish you could design/create in the space sector

Probes for deep space exploration that could send data back and forth in a potential faster-than-light communications (if that’s physically possible - hello spooky action). Maybe that could be a way to answer the most fundamental questions about our existence.  



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