Vicente Valero Fort ex-student of aeronautical engineering at ETSID (2009-2014). Leader of AIT operations for the Cheops space mission.
Since I was little I have been a space enthusiast… and that passion has materialized ”. Satisfied and smiling, Vicente Valero Fort, the aeronautical engineer from the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), who, as AIT Operations Leader (leader of assembly, integration and testing operations), has been key in putting Cheops Orbit, the satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA) that works on the characterization of planets that orbit beyond the Solar System (called exoplanets or extrasolar planets).
Acronym for Characterizing Exoplanet Satellite, Cheops is the result of “the first S-class (small) mission that ESA has launched and in which a consortium consisting of 11 countries, including Spain, has participated,” explains Valero himself. . Framed in the Cosmic Vision program and with a cost of around 50 million euros, Cheops, in orbit since last December 18, weighs 280 kilos and has a useful life of just over 3 years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AunM7EBCL7k
The success of the launch has greater merit in that the project “has had a much smaller budget than that allocated to others”, which meant that both the integration and the preparation “were executed in a very short time and with a margin of practically null error ”. In fact, a series of “inconsistencies in the third-stage launcher software” forced the postponement of the launch from the ESA base in Kourou (French Guiana) one day, which meant, “obviously, that the tension we breathe in those hours it was remarkable ”.
The platform and the integration of the instrument, made in Spain
Able to download 1.2 Gbit of daily data, Cheops “uses the ultra-high-precision transit photometry technique to measure the size of exoplanets”, which will provide relevant information on their composition, density, etc., and perhaps allow profiling the next generation of telescopes.
“The University of Bern has manufactured the high-precision photometry telescope, and both the platform and the integration of the instrument have been made in Spain,” confirms Valero. “The platform is everything that allows the satellite to operate the payload and fulfill the mission: structure, solar panels, attitude and orbit control systems, computers, power systems, data acquisition systems, antennas …”.
A team of AIT of just 4 people
The missions usually consist of one team of AIT engineers per functional chain, but this time the AIT team consisted of only 4 people. “The 4 of us had to understand in depth the operation of all the chains and subsystems of the satellite, understand it at the system level, and be able to define and execute all the tests to verify that the satellite was ready to fulfill its mission,” says Valero, who , with the role of AIT Operations Leader, was in charge “of the coordination of activities in the clean area, the preparation of test procedures and their execution, the management of the satellite’s environmental testing campaign, and the interaction with the client in official reviews ”.
“All the UPV students who took the Erasmus in Aachen obtained higher grades than the students from other countries”
Happy to have chosen the UPV to train as an aeronautical engineer, Valero believes that, in general, “we tend to underestimate the quality of education in our country because we believe that it is not up to the standards of other universities. However, my experience and that of many other colleagues who have had the opportunity to take part of our studies outside of Spain shows that we are more than prepared. ”
“The level of demand, the knowledge acquired and the content learned are superior to that of the foreign universities considered better”, he adds before pointing out that “all the UPV students who studied the Erasmus in Aachen -Vicente was an Erasmus student and free mover in the German city, where he completed his fourth and fifth year- we obtained higher grades than the students from other countries”. According to the engineer, “the knowledge acquired at the UPV is very valid and competent when facing reality in the aerospace industry, and the teaching methodology prepares the engineer to face any professional challenge”.
On May 25, at the Ground Transportation Systems division of Thales GTS Spain
When he completed his studies in aeronautical engineering in 2014, Valero did “an internship at RUAG Space, in the Launchers division, and shortly before finishing them, I was offered to participate in the Cheops project.” RUAG Space is a technology group focused on the aerospace industry that develops, manufactures and tests subsystems and equipment for satellites and launch vehicles. Headquartered in Zurich and with production plants in 14 countries, the company has become the largest provider of space technology in Europe.
For three years, Valero has worked on the project from Madrid, a city to which he initially plans to return on May 25 to join Thales GTS Spain and become part of the company’s Ground Transportation Systems division: “My supervisor He recommended it for the ESA project and despite the fact that it implied a change, with his references and after various interviews, I was one of the two selected by RUAG for the position”.
“At a professional level, the success obtained in such a short time has made me achieve a very good reputation in the sector, recognition by all the agents involved, and it has opened the doors to other positions with much more responsibility,” says Valero.
“Don’t let social pressure force you to make a decision before you are ready.”
Questioned by some advice for students, the aeronautical engineer at the UPV maintains that the most important thing “is to study something that you are passionate about and enjoy the process, that social pressure does not force you to make a decision before being prepared or based solely on the professional exit”.
Likewise, he maintains that outside of Spain “it is highly valued having practiced during the studies, having contact with the industry during the years of the degree, participating in volunteer programs, acquiring international experience and learning languages. All this enriches you as a person and opens the doors of the labor market for you”.