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An interview with Anthea Comellini a PhD student at ISAE-SUPAERO working on space rendez-vous

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An interview with Anthea Comellini a PhD student at ISAE-SUPAERO working on space rendez-vous in cooperation with Thales Alénia Space

Q: Can you tell us about where you are coming from and what is your academic background before the PhD?

A: I have been studying in the aerospace domain since 2011, when I enter the bachelor in aerospace engineering in the Polytechnic of Milan. The need to gain international experience, without renouncing my Master degree at Polytechnic, pushed me to choose a double degree program. I chose ISAE-SUPAERO due to its excellence and proximity with European aerospace industries. Now I see my two educations as complementary and indispensable: ISAE-SUPAERO helped me to fill the gap between the very theoretical approach that we have in Italy and the real professional world of engineering, thanks to many projects and team works held in an international environment. During these years I have realized that, when I approach a new subject, I love to devote time to deeply understand it. This always made me think that a PhD could be a choice that matches me. In order to be prepared for such a possibility, during my third year at ISAE-SUPAERO I’ve decided to enroll the Research Master in automatic control and signal processing of Paris Saclay University.

Q: Why did you decide to enter a PhD program and why ISAE-SUPAERO?

A: I did my final year internship at Thales Alenia Space in Cannes, and this first experience in the enterprise environment was very satisfying. I have to admit that in the first place I forgot my original purpose to enroll a PhD, because I was pretty flattered by the active and dynamic role I had at the workplace. When my chief proposed me to apply for a CIFRE* PhD between Thales Alenia space and ISAE I’ve started questioning me. I realized that I was not yet ready to comply with the rhythms of an enterprise (lot of projects that don’t always correspond to personal preferences, and severe time constraints). A PhD on the other side would have allowed me to have three more years of “intellectual freedom”. The CIFRE PhD was the best compromise for a person like me, who is as much interest in the enterprise as the academic environment. Moreover, since I knew ISAE-SUPAERO environment, I had no hesitation nor concerns when I decided to apply: I knew I would have find at ISAE-SUPAERO the ideal framework as well as the resources and the support needed to conduct my research.

Q: Can you briefly explain the topic of your thesis?

A: My thesis is aimed to develop vision based navigation algorithms for space rendezvous (for capture or docking) with non collaborative targets like space debris or satellites. The main idea is to study different multi-sensor configurations in order to find the optimal one with respect to each different mission

Q: How about life in Toulouse? Any recommendation to see, go there?

A: Toulouse is a human-sized city: it is big enough to find everything you need, but also little enough not to be as stressful as a metropolis. It is a university town and party people will surely find something to do. Personally I love the fact there are lot of sport facilities and its closeness to Pyrenees, which allows me to go hiking in summer and Nordic skiing in winter, with less than a 2 hours drive. Last but not least, Toulouse is really beautiful: the first sunny days of spring, on the banks of the Garonne or the Canal de Midi, you will see wonderful colors and breathe a magic atmosphere.

*CIFRE stands for Industrial Agreement of Training through Research and my contract stipulates that I will spend half time in Thales Alenia Space and the other half at ISAE-SUPAERO

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