First design lead of MOVE: Dominik Still

Hi, let me introduce myself! I’m Dominik, 23 years old, born and raised in Munich.
After school, I stayed here to study Materials Science & Engineering at TUM. Apart from working on MOVE, my hobbies are cooking food from around the world, hiking in the alps and learning to play the ukulele rather badly.

How did you come to MOVE?

I joined the project in May 2019 to experience engineering first hand and not just learn about it in lectures. MOVE was my first choice because in no other project you can build a product that will be launched into space, the final frontier. In the end, it was the expertise of the team and the possibility to see the development process from day one which convinced me to stay.

You are the first design lead in the history of MOVE, although the design team exists for quite a while now. What exactly are your responsibilities as „design leader“?

My main tasks as design leader are coordinating our design team and creating a work environment where everybody can develop their own skills and full potential.

The design team consists of the subsystem design leads. Their special fields cover everything related to design on the satellite. Therefore it sometimes gets really hard to unite all their opinions, wishes and expertise. So, within coordinating, communication is crucial. In such an interdisciplinary project every team has to be in touch with the other systems to ensure they are on the same page regarding design and development. Especially the design team has to coordinate constantly, both, within their own team as well as with the implementation teams. This is the reason we decided to get kind of a “first” designer: the design lead.

As I mentioned, one of my main tasks is to ensure that the team’s work runs smoothly. This includes a lot of knowledge about the systems in general but also a lot of details. And of course, answering a lot of questions about the system of any kind; both, internally and externally. You have to understand the fundamentals of every subsystem and make sure that each designer constructs a system that is compatible with all the other systems. The ability to take a step back and see the system as a whole construct is as essential as understanding every subsystem as a complete unit. With the overview over the whole satellite, you can steer the ship in the right direction to achieve the next goals (and what is a satellite else than a ship sailing between the stars or for our mission between space debris).

What can people expect from you as design lead?

I hope to give the members a welcoming environment because I think this is one of the most important things for progress and good work. The possibility to succeed is the most motivating one but an environment with the opportunity to fail without getting penalized is also extremely valuable. I want nobody to be afraid of failing, it is better to make mistakes now, to learn to identify and correct them without having any fear of repercussions. The important thing is to recognize our errors and to make sure that we and the future designers won’t repeat our mistakes but learn from them and ultimately create a better system. To put it in a nutshell: I want to motivate the team by showing them clear targets on system level to achieve.

What are the next steps in the project?

The system we are working on right now provides the first major challenge: Integrating every subsystem for the first time into a complete working satellite prototype. Therefore every design team has to be in a state, in which their system fulfills its most basic requirements. So the next steps in the project are to get every system in a working state, in which it can provide its most basic functionalities for the satellite to be operational. All systems will be able to interface with each other for the first time and with that, the overall performance of the complete system can be evaluated. Furthermore, we hope to set the foundation for the future. The system we build now offers all the basic functionality you’d hope for on a satellite bus. In an iterative process, we will bring this basic system to full functionality and peak performance, with all its components, especially including the payload, our DEDRA sensor (Interview with DEDRA Payload Engineer).

Why did you want to become design leader?

Like my peers, I love to accept challenges, not only academic ones but real-life challenges. Based on my studies I always believed that the most challenging topics cannot exclusively be found in one specific field of expertise but in multiple at once. This interdisciplinary thought motivated me to become the design lead for the MOVE project. This position is the interface between all disciplines, from software engineering to mechanical design, from electrical real-time systems to physical simulations.

But the main motivation for me and most of the team is the project itself: the MOVE-III satellite and the special conditions related to it. Once launched there is no redesigning or bug fixing anymore, the satellite is final. And it is in space. You don’t have to be a space enthusiast to admire this thought (but we are space lovers, nevertheless). I think being able to lead such a driven team of students is a one-of-a-kind experience and also a great place to expand your own skills.

Do you have any wishes regarding the future of MOVE?

My wish for the future of MOVE is that there always will be a team as awesome as the current one: motivated students who carry the project forward and ultimately have a successful mission. In the end, we all strive to be scientists or engineers and be part of the scientific progress. I also hope not to see an RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly) at launchtime or that we turn out to be space debris ourselves.