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Meet Annamaria Piras, a true enthusiast of space exploration and orbital infrastructures

Can you please explain your job?

I’m the Head of Low Earth Orbit programs, along with the Artemis program for a return to the Moon, the European Service Module for Orion manned space exploration spacecraft and HALO, the first Gateway Habitation element. Within the Exploration and sciences activity, our business line maintains a major link with the International Space Station and is also mainly focused on the commercialization of space, based on B2B agreements, such as Axiom, the first commercial space station for which our company will provide 2 pressurized modules.



I’m also manager of all programs with Northrop Grumman, namely Cygnus resupply vessels and HALO. In short, my current job is really to coordinate all aspects of complex projects, including finance, technical, customer interface, supply chain, etc. I oversee different teams to reach a shared objective and turn out the end products. I am very happy to work for a company that leveraged on its long-standing legacy regarding pressurized modules to become the world leader in orbital infrastructures and a top industrial player onboard Lunar Gateway.



What are you most proud of in your day-to-day activity?

There are three main factors that make you proud, starting with team spirit and the motivation and determination of your team. Secondly, a similar feeling concerning the customer. When you can perceive their trust and recognition of the work done and support at critical times, you really feel that you’re a part of the whole and not just a subcontractor. The third factor is of course the results, especially when you’re facing tremendous pressure or a very challenging situation and your team rises to the challenge!

Which event in your career have you enjoyed the most?


Several events have stayed in my memory. For example, the first time I was at the mission control center in Houston for MPLM, especially when we helped solve a critical issue. During the Node 2 and 3 launch campaign, I was in charge of the end-to-end system test for our contribution: that was a unique experience, working with a highly focused international team and also getting to know each other during our few free moments together.

The launch and subsequent commissioning or initial operations phase are always special, because you finally see what your team built in orbit. The one I enjoyed most was probably the Node 3 and Cupola launch, where I watched a unique night shuttle launch and just a few hours later flew to Houston and joined the Mission Control Center – no sleep but a lot of motivation! You have to understand that our company built half of the ISS’ European pressurized volume.

Motivation also counts in today’s dynamic and innovative commercial environment. Even after 30 years at Thales Alenia Space, I’m still both motivated and enthusiastic. You can tell I still enjoy my job, because otherwise I would have changed!

What are the qualities required in your profession?

•    Ability to work in a large team and maintain good relations with customers and suppliers. You also need to be very determined, because space projects take a long time.
•    Organizational capability and being able to innovate, change and adapt your approach to different environments/situations/events.
•    Skills and the ability to recognize other people’s skills, all needed to meet your objective. You also have to be able to make quick decisions.


Photos & artistic view © Thales Alenia Space - Video © Thales Alenia Space/Master Image Programmes