In this Better Satellite World podcast series, we ask the question: “What would you do if you had the power to make the world a better place during your career?” Joining SSPI’s Lou Zacharilla to answer that question in the sixth episode are 3 members of the “20 Under 35” cohort of 2023: Christian Keil, Chief of Staff at Astranis, Sapna Rao, Senior Systems Engineer at Lockheed Martin and Glory Sikka, Technical Program Manager at Maxar.

Christian Keil is the Chief of Staff at Astranis, a manufacturer and operator of MicroGEO communications satellites. He leads both the marketing team and the regulatory team, roles in which he is the primary interface between Astranis and the outside world — whether heads of international regulatory agencies or fans on Twitter. After joining Astranis as its third businessperson, Christian played a pivotal role in scaling the company to over 300 employees and a $1.6 billion valuation. Over nearly five years, he has helped by establishing the company’s back-end business systems (finance, recruiting, HR, etc.), designing the company’s first website, writing the company’s first onboarding guide and securing the company’s first MOUs from the Department of Defense.

Sapna Rao is a Senior Systems Engineer at Lockheed Martin. She joined the company in 2018 after graduating from the Virginia Tech College of Engineering with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and completing an Aerospace Engineering internship with Lockheed Martin. Sapna quickly became integral to many Lockheed Martin initiatives, playing an active role as a Software Systems Engineer, Systems Engineer and Mission Operations Developer on significant programs including Artemis I, Artemis II, the Human Landing System, and the Cryogenic Demonstration Mission. She currently serves as the lead for developing customers and partners from industry and academia to participate in Lockheed Martin’s Lunar Mobile Vehicle project. Sapna is also the technical lead for Project Agni, a machine learning and artificial intelligence tool that can detect wildfires using lightning and weather data. She is also leading the generation of mission operations sequences for the Cryogenic Demonstration Mission. This mission is proving out the technology for transferring liquid hydrogen in orbit demonstrating refueling in space. This capability will enable future deep space exploration to Mars and beyond.

Glory Sikka is the Deputy Technical Program Manager for NASA’s Space Infrastructure Dexterous Robot (SPIDER) project at Maxar. She joined the company in 2018 as a Lead Systems Engineer for the project. SPIDER is an ambitious and complex mission demonstrating a brand-new robotic arm system for in-space assembly of spacecraft. Glory’s team is responsible for the end-to-end system, which includes end-over-end walking capability, robot control avionics, situational awareness software, operations console, a precision in-space assembled Ka-band antenna and an in-space manufactured composite antenna boom. She was promoted to her current position in 2021 and is one of the youngest employees to ever reach that level of seniority at the company. Before joining Maxar, Glory spent two years as a Systems Engineer performing robotic maintenance activities on nuclear reactors for the MDA Corporation. She made many training and tool upgrades and improvements while at the company, resulting in greater up-time and reduced risk during maintenance operations. Glory began her career at Solar Ship, where she conducted design, modelling, experimental testing and data analysis for a next-generation airship.

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