4 mins read 19 Sep 2022

Women of the Australian Space Community: FATIMA SHAFIQ

Women play a huge role in the Australian space sector, and each week will be sharing the story of an inspiring woman who makes our community so special. 

Fatima with the UNSW Canberra Space Mission called 'M2PF' at Wombat chamber at Mt Stromlo owned by ANU, completing testing for the mission. Credit - Supplied.

In March each year, we not only celebrate International Women’s Day but we also enjoy learning about all the contributions women have made to society during Women’s History Month. Originally started in the US in 1987, it has in recent times, in part due to social media, become more well known across the world. 

As a celebration of all the wonderful work, inspiration and support that women across our region do in the space sector, will be speaking to a new women in the Australian space community weekly, to uncover their stories and find out who inspires them.  

Fatima Shafiq - Senior Systems Engineer, Babcock Australia & New Zealand

What is your role?

I am currently working as a Senior Systems Engineer on Land Systems, but I developed a solid background being a Space Systems Engineer at UNSW Space. I was involved in mission design to the Radio Frequency (RF) subsystem (Payload, TT&C) design involving RF link budgets and hardware development, testing, integration and validation (IVVQ). Our customers were the RAAF, the Office of National Intelligence and Airbus. I participated in initial mission planning, scheduling and budgeting with the customer as team lead and expert for missions like M2PF, M2, Lamanon and NicSat using a concurrent space mission design facility (the only design facility in Australia). I also served in the National Space Agency of Pakistan where I worked on GEO and remote sensing satellites. 

How did you end up working in the space sector and what drew you to it?

I knew since my teens that I love space, NASA, astronomy and all of the mysteries of the cosmos. I used to write imaginary stories about space and for all my creative activities at work, I always chose space. The lady luck was kind enough to let me follow my dream. 

What advice would you give to people looking to start their career in the Australian space Industry, whether they are new graduates or those looking to move their careers over?

I encourage the candidates to choose research, mystery and anything they are passionate about. Try to match your passion and profession! You don't need to study anything different as space needs and involves almost all the disciplines. 

Who have you met that has had the most impact on your career journey so far?

From teachers to mentors to supervisors; I think one of the important people that help one shape their career is family. A supportive family is as important as the passion in itself to become something. I am lucky enough that I met some of the best people in my journey who impacted different angles of my personnel and professional growth. 

What has been your most interesting discovery or been the most interesting space-related project you have worked on or been part of?

All the missions I worked on in the space sector are close to my heart. It feels as if you are sending your baby far away after working day and night on it. Each mission had a unique set of challenges and it is very hard to resolve only one. From the concept to the launch to talking about it for the first time is a unique experience. 

What are you most excited about in the coming years for the Australian Space Industry?

I can see Australian Space Industry starting to pick up pace. However, I also see the need to put effort into it at the national level to let the nation know, hear, understand and feel the pulse of space and Australia's representation on the international front. 

What has been the highlight of your career so far or what are you looking forward to most in the future?

Currently, I am not working in the space sector in Australia because of limited opportunities in different states. It is a bit sad to see that if I can't change my state to find a career in space there are very little opportunities to hold on to. What I want to see in the Australian space sector is equal space work in all states.