What have you been up to since leaving Shotton Hall?
After Shotton Hall I went to the Durham Sixth Form Centre to take A levels in maths, further maths and physics before going to Kingston University to study Aerospace Engineering. I wanted to specialise in space so after Kingston I went to Cranfield University to study for a Master of Science degree in Astronautics and Space Engineering.
Upon graduating from Cranfield I moved to Newbury in Berkshire to work for a company called Satellites International Limited (SIL). At SIL we built small satellites and satellite components. My role was structural and thermal design. In the time I was at SIL I designed a number of satellite components that were built and later launched into space.
In 1996 I was invited to apply for a teaching position that had come up at Kingston University and moved back there as a Lecturer of Space Vehicle Design. I spent six years working in the Aerospace Engineering department, teaching and conducting research.
After that, (2000) I moved into space insurance, firstly working for the Marham Space Consortium before setting up the Atrium Space Insurance Consortium (ASIC) in 2007. ASIC is a group of ten Lloyd’s of London insurance syndicates that insure a lot of the communication and Earth observation satellites that are launched each year. As the space underwriter I am responsible for evaluating the risk, calculating the premium, and paying the claim if anything goes wrong. Space insurance is no different to other forms of insurance. Just the object being insured, and its value change. A car may be insured for £20,000 and a house for £200,000. Some of our satellites are insured for more than £400 million!
My job allows me to travel quite a lot with customers in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Asia. The best trips though are those to attend a launch to watch the satellite you’re insuring being sent on its way to space. I’ve now seen launches from Kazakhstan, the US and French Guiana. You have to be patient though. A late change in the weather or a technical problem can easily delay a launch. I travelled all the way to Tanagashima Island in Japan to watch a launch only to miss it because of bad weather and I had to make three trips to French Guiana before seeing an Ariane 5 launch.
What do you remember most about your time at Shotton Hall?
I alway remember in April 1981, when I was in my first year, NASA launched the space shuttle for the first time. The launch was planned for the 10 April which unfortunately was school day. Undeterred I got permission from my form tutor, Mr Collard, to go into one of the classrooms to watch the launch at lunch time. Delays pushed the launch back and I had to return to afternoon classes thinking I was missing my chance to watch it. Luckily for me the launch ended up being delayed for two days, to a Sunday, which allowed me to watch the launch from home.
How did your time at Shotton Hall prepare you for where you are now?
My time at Shotton Hall prepared me well with great teachers nurturing my interest in science and technology. Who knows if all of this would have happened had Mr Collard not being willing to let me watch that first launch of the space shuttle!