Braxton’s Gehant dancing, working with the stars

Thu, May 3, 2012

One on One

Chris Gehant spends his days creating satellite simulation software for Braxton Technologies and his nights running swing-dancing classes.

In fact, the 36-year-old system architect danced during festivities for the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia in 2000.

During the day, he hangs up his dancing shoes and takes on a job that requries working knowledge of software development, astrodynamics, electrical engineering, satellite missions operations and simulation.

What does your job require of you?

I am a Systems Architect at Braxton Technologies. I specialize in creating satellite simulation software for testing mission control software and training mission operators. Currently, I am working as Braxton’s technical lead for the ground system upgrade to the Global Positioning System.

What are the challenges surrounding the job?

The primary challenge of this job is the diverse set of skills required. Once launched, satellites require regular monitoring and maintenance, just like a car. This is done from a master control station over ground antennas. Our simulators model everything outside of the master control station. This includes the ground antennas, the satellite vehicles, and the physics related to radio transmission and orbital motion. So software design in this field requires a background in software development, physics, astrodynamics, electrical engineering, satellite mission operations, and simulation. The ability to read and understand technical documentation is very important.

How has your position changed?

When I started in this field, simulators for ground operations were largely implemented from scratch by the company creating the ground control software. Today, we are starting to see the ground control simulation work subcontracted out to companies like Braxton, which can leverage a Commercial Off-The-Shelf software simulation infrastructure and satellite mission expertise to create simulations in less time and with lower cost.

What first attracted you to the field?

Honestly, the ability to work with space was the initial attraction for me. Beyond that though, I’ve found that I enjoy the day-to-day challenge of constantly learning something new. This really is a job for people who are naturally curious and like to know how things work.

How should other young professionals get into your field?

Internships are a very important step to get your foot in the door. Spend some time thinking about where you’d like to work when you graduate and send them your resume. Once you get hired on, your success depends on having the ability to learn, taking pride in your work and completing assignments on time.

What are the benefits of working in Colorado Springs?

Colorado Springs has some obvious benefits like beautiful weather and scenery, and easy access to the outdoors. I think one of the less obvious benefits is that an individual can make a much larger impact in a town of our size. There are all kinds of fascinating opportunities for young professionals to get involved in civic activities like the Chamber of Commerce and city government. All it takes is some initiative, and a desire to contribute to your community.

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