UP alumna reaches for the stars

Posted on June 29, 2017


University of Pretoria (UP) alumna, Ms Annelie Vermeulen (née Wheeler), is one of 14 exceptional young people – and the only South African – who has been selected to participate in the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Adelaide, Australia as part of the Emerging Space Leaders (ESL) Grant Programme for 2017.

The ESL Grant programme aims to actively engage, inspire and support the next generation of students and young professionals in order to prepare them to be the future leaders of the international space community. Each year, the programme enables 14 students and young professionals between the ages of 21 and 35 to participate in the IAC, as well as in the United Nations/International Astronautical Federation Workshop and Space Generation Congress, which are both held during the week preceding the IAC. The participants are chosen by the Emerging Space Leaders Steering Committee composed of six highly experienced space stakeholders.

After completing a degree in Industrial Engineering at UP, Ms Vermeulen started working as a Process Engineer and Business Analyst. As space flight has been a lifelong passion for her, she however decided to resign, take the plunge and follow her dreams, and enrolled at the University of Cape Town (UCT) for an honours degree in astrophysics and space science. She has since spent a summer working at SANAE IV, the South African scientific research base in Antarctica, as a member of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA)'s engineering team performing field work on the SuperDARN radar array, VLF antenna, GPS systems and fluxgate magnetometer, and has also participated in the 2016 Space Station Design Workshop at IRS Stuttgart University, where she fulfilled the role of project manager specialising in cost and risk. She is currently completing the research component of a master's degree in space studies under UCT's SpaceLab programme in collaboration with SANSA, and plans to pursue a career in the space industry with a focus on the field of space mission analysis and design on completion of her studies.

This year's IAC, which will take place in September, promises to be an intense week where role players from the international space industry will gather to discuss the advancement and progress of various aspects of the space industry. A particular focus of this year's event will be secure access to satellites that provide communications, timing and navigation services and remote sensing data. Ms Vermeulen is set to present a paper on ionospheric scintillation detected in GPS signals in the South Atlantic Magnetic Anomaly using a ship-based receiver during the proceedings. The congress will provide an excellent opportunity for this aspiring space leader to extend her network, gain knowledge and meet the relevant people in the growing international space industry.



- Author Ansa Heyl

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