IAF Emerging Space Leaders 2017

The IAF Emerging Space Leaders (ESL) Grant Programme enables each year 25 students and young professional between the age of 21 and 35 to participate in the International Astronautical Congress (IAC), as well as in the UN/IAF Workshop and the Space Generation Congress, both held the week prior to the Congress.

The IAF is proud to introduce the 2017 Emerging Space Leaders!

These 14 students and young professionals were chosen by the Emerging Space Leaders Steering Committee composed of six higly experienced space stakeholders. They will fly off to Adelaide in September 2017 to participate in the IAC and have the opportunity to extend their network, gain knowledge and meet all the relevant people in space industry.

Alexander Linossier


“I’ve been passionate about space for as long as I can remember. What began as a fascination with planets and stars quickly evolved into space vehicles and rockets. After completing my Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering / Bachelor of Arts at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, I faced up to a harsh truth; with no government space agency, and very little space industry, there were no space jobs for me at home. Instead, I spent the next two years working in Oil & Gas as a Drilling Engineer, where I gained invaluable experience both on and off the rigs. Most importantly, I learned how to work and talk with people from rig crews through to senior executives. My goal was still to work in space, however, and so I moved to Germany, where I am currently studying my Master of Space Engineering at the Technische Universität Berlin, and completing my Master’s thesis at the Asher Space Research Institute in Haifa, Israel. I believe that although Australia is behind the curve when it comes to space, our hesitance has provided us with a unique opportunity. As a strong, international economy, and without the red-tape and political baggage that typically accompanies traditional space, Australia can quickly establish themselves as a haven for the rise of ‘Space 4.0’ and commercial space ventures. At the same time, our world-class researchers and engineers can contribute to the massive undertakings of the new space exploration era that require unprecedented levels of international collaboration between governments and industry.”

Narayan Prasad Nagendra


“Cofounder at satsearch.co, where we are building a comprehensive, independent and up-to-date search engine that indexes all the products and services within the space industry. Our platform will provide users with parametric search capabilities, enabling complex data querying and visualization at their fingertips.

A DAAD Scholar pursuing doctoral candidate at Lehrstuhl Supply Chain Management, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany, driving research based on business management with a focus on business ecosystems.

Erasmus Mundus SpaceMaster graduate and an EGIDE scholar (French Embassy Scholarship 2011) with a Master in Space Technology, Sweden and a Master in Space Techniques and Instrumentation, France. Previous experiences with the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, DLR Institute of Space Systems, Germany. Master in Space & Telecom Laws from the Center for Air & Space Law of NALSAR Law University, Hyderabad. With my background in Space Instrumentation & Technology and experiences in the entrepreneurial landscape of India, I research on space policy models that shall enable integration of commercial and NewSpace possibilities into the Indian space ecosystem.

Curator of NewSpace India, an online publication of articles providing an in-depth analysis of current issues in technology, policy, economics, commercialisation, geo-politics, defence around the Indian space programme. I plan to use the social media platforms and the blog to write about my international experiences to the Indian audience. At the same time, I also contribute articles on building NewSpace ecosystems for TheWire.In and the Space Alert, a Quarterly on Space Affairs published by Observer Research Foundation (ORF).”

Maria Alexandra Lora Veizaga


Alexandra Lora is a Bolivian engineer, who has studied Telecommunication technologies at the Bolivian Catholic University (UCB) and has been part of the team of some important Bolivian telecommunications companies, such as ENTEL and TIGO, where she has showed skills such as team work, high professional ethics and social commitment. She was a crucial part of the team who put in orbit the first Bolivian Telecommunication Satellite (TKSAT-1), her team was responsible to monitor the orbit transfers of the satellite, manoeuvers that were done by a Chinese team. She has worked pro bono as an organizer of the first Bolivian Aerospace Congress “Bolivia Mirando al Cosmos” where she gave a presentation on orbit dynamics. Also, she has been a speaker in several conferences in Bolivia where she presented the aim and functionality of the TKSAT-1. Now she is the Orbit Team Leader at the Bolivian Space Agency (ABE), her main roles are the management of the orbit of the satellite and the control and maintenance of the equipment on the ground station. On 2016, she was part of a training on satellite systems at SES headquarters in Betzdorf, Luxembourg. She has constantly been in touch with different agencies and believes that “Understanding and cooperation between different entities can show us a path to better technology and a better world”.

Annelie Vermeulen

South Africa

Ani Vermeulen is a Masters student in Space Studies at the University of Cape Town’s SpaceLab programme. She is currently completing her research component in collaboration with the South African National Space Agency (SANSA). Her prior education includes a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering (University of Pretoria) and a Honours degree in Astrophysics and Space Science (University of Cape Town). She will be presenting at IAC2017 on ionospheric scintillation detected in GPS signals in the South Atlantic Magnetic Anomaly using a ship-based receiver.

Space flight has been a lifelong passion for her. She gained four years experience as a Process Engineer and Business Analyst before she chose to pursue what she loves most, and returned to university to focus on space-related science and technologies. She spent a summer working at SANAE IV, the South African scientific research base in Antarctica, as a member of the SANSA engineering team performing field work on the SuperDARN radar array, VLF antenna, GPS systems and fluxgate magnetometer.

She participated in the 2016 Space Station Design Workshop at IRS Stuttgart University during which she fulfilled the role of project manager specialising in cost & risk. Upon completion of her studies she plans to move into the space industry with a focus on the field of Space Mission Analysis and Design. She is passionate about sharing the wonders of space and science with others, and encouraging students to pursue scientific careers in Astrophysics, Space Science and Space Engineering.

Abinish Kumar Dutta


Abinish Kumar Dutta is currently a final year undergraduate student of Mechanical Engineering at Kathmandu University, Nepal. He is a dedicated space enthusiast and a budding entrepreneur working to promote space education and the development of space technology in his own country and beyond. He helped found Nepal’s first aerospace company “ORION Space” with a vision to make space science and technology more accessible to students and adult professionals alike and to develop it into a premier center for aerospace research and a one-stop manufacturer of advanced space products in the future. As the company’s project manager, he has successfully helped initiate Nepal’s first nanosatellite development project with little resources available and currently leads the project team. He is determined to play even greater pioneering roles in the field in the future. He has also been conducting various workshops and hands-on trainings using CanSats and other picosatellite-based educational tools for other students and amateurs in the field. In the past, he has volunteered for Nepal Astronomical Society (NASO) in several astronomy outreach activities.

Besides, he is also an avid researcher and a semi-autodidact in the field. His current active academic and non-academic research interests include hypersonic aerothermodynamics (especially scramjet propulsion for SSTO flight) and distributed space systems control among others. He is currently paving the way for his higher studies in the same discipline.

Ahmad Shaqeer Bin Mohamed Thaheer


Ahmad Shaqeer, 25 years old, holds a BSc degree in Aerospace Engineering in 2015 from Universiti Sains Malaysia. During his Bachelor study, he was the President of the School of Aerospace Engineering Society, USM. He develops the structure subsystem for the Malaysia first scientific High-altitude Balloon project and with that, he participates the Global Space Balloon Challenge organized by MIT. Then, he works as a Research Assistant in developing in-house microcontroller for research. He is now a Master’s degree candidate in the field of Aerospace Engineering from Universiti Sains Malaysia. He is undergoing a research on the development of Malaysia first nanosatellite focusing on the mission analysis and design. During his MSc study, he co-authors a book chapter titled ‘CubeSat Technology in Satellite Development’ in the book of ‘Advances in Aerospace Science and Technology’ published by Nova Science Publisher. He hopes that it will be the foundation for future nanosatellite development in Malaysia. He participates the 3rd Asia-Pacific Space Generation Workshop held in Los Baños, Phillipines to expand his networking capabilities as well understand the current space news and market. His goals are to obtain a PhD in satellite development by the age of 28 and works as an engineer in satellite development project. He hopes that he will be in the team that lifts Malaysia space research and development framework in the future.

Doris Grosse


Dr. Doris Grosse is an early career research scientist specialising in adaptive optics with the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre (AITC) at the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. She did her engineering graduate degree with the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology of the Ruhr-University Bochum in Bochum, Germany. Afterwards, she worked with the Photonics and Terahertz Technology research group at the Ruhr-University Bochum as a research assistant, where she subsequently finished her PhD on the topic of three-dimensional imaging with digital and photorefractive holography. At the beginning of 2016, Doris joined the Adaptive Optics group at the ANU AITC for her first postdoctoral research position. She is developing an adaptive optics system within the scope of the Space Environment Research Centre (SERC), an Australian government funded Cooperative Research Centre for the measurement, monitoring, analysis and management of space debris. One of the goals of SERC is to use photon pressure from a laser beam to manoeuvre space debris away from a collision course with other functional satellites or debris. The adaptive optics system will support this goal by aiding the propagation of a high-power laser from a ground based telescope through the atmosphere.

Researching on the topic of space debris and Space Situational Awareness, Doris strongly believes that a long-term solution to the space debris problem can only be found through international cooperation, as it is a global issue.

Lisa Peacocke

New Zealand

Lisa Peacocke is currently a PhD candidate at Imperial College London, researching next generation Mars entry vehicles with deployable heatshields. She recently returned to study after a decade in the space industry, to gain expertise in an area of particular interest to her – planetary entry, descent and landing. During her 10 years in industry, Lisa worked at Airbus Defence and Space as a Mission Systems Engineer, designing future planetary exploration and space science missions such as MarcoPolo-R, Mars Precision Lander and Phobos Sample Return. She also worked as a systems engineer on missions such as JUICE, Mars Hopper, Uranus Pathfinder and SWARM. Lisa strongly believes in the value of space exploration, to motivate and inspire people towards positive projects, and to push the boundaries of human understanding. She is a New Zealander with Dutch and British heritage, and is excited to see the growing participation of Oceania in new space projects.

Wei-Yu Louis Feng


Wei-Yu Louis Feng is currently completing his Master’s degree (M.Phil) in space studies at University of Cape Town. His thesis is focusing on the active debris removal technologies. Wei-yu Louis received his Bachelor’s degree in Mechatronics from University of Cape Town in 2013. His bachelor’s thesis in control engineering was published in New Trends in Networking, Computing, E-learning, System Sciences and Engineering. He worked as a system engineer in the petroleum industry during 2014 and 2015, where he travelled to and worked at multiple countries includes: US, UK, Angola, Spain and South Africa. Following on from a stint in industry he returned to academia as student in the M.Phil space studies program. He was the recipient of the SSPI grand prize in 2016 with the literature: “Study of current regulations and possible recommendations associated with smallsat revolution.” He was also the winner of the 3rd IAF international student workshop held at Guadalajara, Mexico in 2016. After a fruitful journey at Mexico, he conducted a research exchange at the Institute for Space Systems (IRS) at Stuttgart University in Germany from October 2016 till January 2017. He had an oral presentation on debris capturing techniques at the 7th European space debris conference held at ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany. He has recently being selected as one of the Emerging Space Leader (ESL) by the International Astraunautica Federation (IAF). Wei-Yu Louis is passionate about improving people’s life using technologies and creates a long selfsustaining system for future generations.

Marco Gómez Jenkins

Costa Rica

Marco Gómez Jenkins carried out his undergraduate studies at the Georgia Institute of Technology, receiving dual degrees in aerospace and mechanical engineering. He placed third in the Undergraduate Team Space Design Competition 2011 of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for his thesis focusing on the design of an orbital debris removal mission. After graduation, he worked at the Ad Astra Rocket Company performing thermal studies on the VASIMR engine, the world´s most powerful spacecraft electric propulsion system. In 2012, Mr. Gómez started the Master´s program in aerospace engineering at the Delft University of Technology. This program included an internship at the Swiss Space Center of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, where he optimized spacecraft trajectories using low-thrust propulsion systems for an orbital debris removal mission. His graduate thesis was awarded the best technical student paper prize at the International Astronautical Congress 2015, by the British Interplanetary Society. That same year, he started working at the Costa Rican Institute of Technology (TEC) as project manager for the Irazú mission, which aims to place the first satellite of the Central American region in orbit by early 2018. He recently co-founded the Space Systems Laboratory at TEC (SETEC) and is currently working as Program Manager. Marco is a strong advocate for international collaboration in satellite missions and promotes the use of space technology in developing countries.

Matjaz Vidmar


Matjaz Vidmar is a PhD student in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Edinburgh and at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. He is a (Astro)Physicist by training, with further degrees in Social Science, where he is looking at science evaluation, innovation and economic growth. In his doctoral research, he is deploying ethnographic methodology to study high-tech innovation in the Space Industry, focusing on emerging networks, knowledge transfer and changes to new product development processes, in particular looking at recent (»New Space«) developments in previously peripheral countries, such as Scotland and Slovenia. His research is linked with applications in science policy and business incubation, for instance by working in close partnership with the innovations arm of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council. Additionally, he is involved in several international initiatives and projects to develop the future of Space Exploration and Industry, such as serving as the Policy Lead for the Gateway Earth Development Group and as an Assistant Editor at the Journal of Astrosociology. He is also a university lecturer, a student mentor and tutor, and an award winning science communicator, with projects delivered in several countries and in leading science and arts venues. You can find more about Matjaz, his work, and how to get in touch, at: www.roe.ac.uk/~vidmar.

Merve Erdem


Merve ERDEM is a research assistant in the International Law Department of Ankara University Faculty of Law since 2011 and got her Ph.D. degree in December 2016. Her motive for choosing to study not just international law but also space law is the keen interest and enthusiasm she has for this area of law.

She started to pursue her academic career in space law with her master’s degree at Ankara University Institute of Social Sciences. She defended her master thesis titled as “An Analysis of the Outer Space Regime Seth Forth by the United Nations Treaties in the Context of International Law” in 2011. Later on, she published her very first book on space law with the name of “The Legal Regime of Space and Space Activities” in 2014.

Since starting her master’s period, she not only produces academic works inside the doors but also participates in national conferences and workshops in Turkey to observe other aspects of space studies and exchange ideas with other scholars who do not have a legal background. She gives speeches on the legal regime of space and its difference from the legal regime of air at academia and practitioners forums. She also teaches space law within the Civil Aviation Law lecture in each semester at the Ankara University Faculty of Law. In September 2015, she was accepted as a prospective member of International Institute of Space Law (IISL), and since then, she also involves in conferences and workshops at the international level including IAC 2016 organized in Mexico. Recently she is invited to join to Turkish Space Mining Working Group (TUMÇAĞ), and they held the I. Asteroid Mining and Meteor Science Workshop in Istanbul, in December 2016.

Even though her Ph.D. dissertation touches upon another topic of international law (State Immunity in the Face of Jus Cogens Violations of States), she continues to work on the crucial and contemporary issues of space like governance of space resources and interpretation of outer space treaties. She believes that her general background on international law gives her the opportunity to see the whole picture and focus on the specific legal problems in comparison with the other spatial rules of international law. This background is also beneficial for her to apply the problem-solving methodology of international law on space law to be able to find more substantial solutions on the legal issues of space activities.

Pablo Melendres Claros


Pablo Melendres Claros is an electronics and telecommunication engineer from Bolivia. He´s currently working in the Bolivian Space Agency (ABE) as the Satellite Team Leader. He’s in charge of monitoring the subsystems and the execution of all operations of the TKSAT-1 satellite.

In 2012, around 1500 professionals were chosen to apply for a training in Beijing, China to manage the first Bolivian communications satellite. After several tests and interviews, Pablo along with other 63 professionals was selected for the training. He managed to be in the top ten and received additional courses on ground station management.

Last year, he had the opportunity to visit schools in his city, to talk to last-year students about the space, the work the Bolivian Space Agency does, to encourage future professionals to be part of the aerospace revolution and contribute to Bolivia.

In this year´s IAC, he will be presenting his paper with a colleague, about a proposal to unify the Spanish translations of English aerospace terminology, so the Spanish community uses standardized translation in their work. The validated terms will be available for everyone to make aerospace content more accessible for native Spanish speakers.

Sarah Wittig


Sarah Wittig is an applied Physicist, currently working at ESA as an expert in opto-electronics, specializing in detectors. Her background is in experimental physics, with a focus on quantum optics. Sarah completed her PhD at the Australian National University in 2012. The project involved developing and testing a concept for a quantum repeater, based on high-resolution spectroscopy of a crystal cooled below 4K. Following her PhD, Sarah moved to Europe to undertake a postdoctoral position at the University of Munich in the field of nano-photonics. Sarah began her career in space in 2004, when she moved to the Netherlands to join ESA as a Research Fellow, initially in components technology as a photonics engineer, and as of November 2016, in opto-electronics as a detector expert. As a Technical Officer at ESA, Sarah defines and manages diverse development activities in the photonics and electro-optics domain, which are undertaken by European industry. In addition, Sarah is also supporting ongoing ESA projects in reviews and developments as a detector expert.

Having grown up and studied in Australia, Sarah is especially excited to return to Australia to attend the IAC as an Emerging Space Leader, and is optimistic that this will lead to increased participation in international space activities for Australia.