Thomas Galbraith has landed his dream job.
The former Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil started his role as a spacecraft engineer at Dawn Aerospace’s Christchurch base last month, working on the electrical systems of the the company’s products.
The New Zealand-based aerospace company is working towards launching test flights of unmanned space planes from Oamaru Airport.
“An exciting part of the job has been feeding off the expertise that Dawn have got here and [which has] allowed me to build my inventory of knowledge,” Mr Galbraith said.
“We are a small company, but we do everything from ground-up design to building, testing, validation then shipping for the customer.
“To be in a position where I can take an idea through to a product that you can hold in your hand and say go to space one day’ is pretty incredible.
“Really happy with the opportunity that I’ve landed here.”
Mr Galbraith was thrown straight in the deep end when he started the job.
“My first job was to improve the electronic circuit for one of the main production products which was the B-20 satellite thruster,” he said.
“So from day one I have been working on some pretty exciting technology.”
There was an even split between the practical and theoretical aspects of the job, he said.
Mr Galbraith left school in 2013, and now has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Canterbury.
He was the chief electrical engineer for the University of Canterbury motorsport team, which competed in the Formula SAE, an international university engineering competition. The team was the highest ranked SAE team in New Zealand, third in Australasia and 25th in the world.
There were some parallels between motorsport and space travel, Mr Galbraith said.
“There is a big parallel in the engineering decisions you have to make.
“You have to make similar considerations when you put something in space.
“Not only does it have to be extremely safe, but also extremely reliable and fault tolerant.”
The main difference was the environment the vehicle was exposed to in space.
“There are all sorts of things from really high temperature changes, radiation and then the extreme vibration and stress components are under when they are placed inside a rocket.
“You do a lot of research and design to make sure we absolutely know what we are doing.”
Mr Galbraith’s passion for electrical engineering came from his father Phil, and was also fostered by John Robinson, one of his teachers at Waitaki Boys’. But he could never have imagined then that a career in engineering would lead him to launching planes into space.