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Serco Welcomes Sarah AlHabbas as First Space Graduate, Pioneering Saudi Talent in the Space Sector

Published: 13 Mar 2024

Within just one week of opening, Serco's Space Graduate Programme received over 400 applications, creating fierce competition for the limited available spots. Fast forward three months and the first successful graduate, Sarah AlHabbas, has not only gone through an intensive induction in Riyadh, but has already started the next stage of her dynamic training in Darmstadt, Germany.

In November 2023, Serco launched its space graduate programme in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), with the aim to foster national talent and contribute to the growth of the Saudi space sector in line with Saudi Vision 2030. Sarah AlHabbas’ application really stood out. An Aerospace Engineering graduate with a minor in Applied Mathematics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the United States, Sarah's passion for aviation and space led her to join Serco as a Graduate Spacecraft Operations Engineer.

Since joining the programme, Sarah has undergone comprehensive training, beginning with familiarising herself with Serco's global space services in KSA where she had actively participated in business development initiatives by developing solutions to support various space opportunities as well as participating in the Communications, Space, and Technology Commission’s Space Training Programme.

Following her initial training in KSA, Sarah is now undergoing an intensive six-month training programme at Serco’s COP2 facilities in Darmstadt, Germany aimed at deepening her theoretical knowledge through real-world applications and access to industry experts. Upon completion, Sarah will be certified as a proficient Spacecraft Operations Engineer.

The training in Germany is structured into three distinct stages: Foundational spacecraft design concepts, sessions covering routine operations and understanding day-to-day responsibilities of spacecraft operations engineers at the European Space Operations Centre. Additionally, Sarah is undergoing training on the state of the art of spacecraft operations, using Sentinel-1 as a case study, an Earth Observation mission operated by Serco on behalf of the European Space Agency. A mission dedicated to land and sea monitoring, natural disaster mapping, sea ice observations and ship detection. Moreover, her training covers mastering the technical details of satellite systems from the ground up, providing a complete view of what is required to successfully operate a space mission. 

Sarah is currently benefitting from international exposure by gaining valuable insights into global space operations standards, regulatory frameworks, compliance requirements and industry best practices. Her day-to day responsibilities involve learning from industry professionals who have decades of first-hand experience in satellite systems and space operations in an interactive learning environment. She is also being exposed to different units involved in flight operations such as flight dynamics, collision avoidance, ground stations and computer support, allowing her to obtain multi-domain knowledge.

Looking ahead, Sarah will return to KSA armed with newfound skills and knowledge to contribute to the success of Serco’s regional space division and support the growth of the Saudi space sector overall.

In the future, Serco plans to launch subsequent editions of the graduate programme throughout the Middle East, extending its reach to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while further scaling its impact in KSA. The focus for the future graduate programmes will include offering a diverse range of roles for graduates to explore, providing further opportunities for international exposure alongside hands-on exposure with regional contracts.