A pioneer in orbit

To contribute to the development of the space industry in Senegal, the University of Montpellier is welcoming three Senegalese students among the 9 enrolled in the Space Systems Development establishment diploma. Only one woman, Aïssatou Sidibe, is part of this first class.

It's a pioneer. In 2012, the École Polytechnique de Thiès in Senegal launched the first training course for aeronautical design engineers. When the time came to choose her course of study three years later, Aïssatou Sidibe decided to embark on this adventure. In so doing, she has served her school's ambitious goal of developing research and technological innovation in aeronautics in her country. In 2020, the third class of aeronautical engineers trained in Senegal will graduate, and Aïssatou Sidibe is one of only three women in her class.

"My aim has always been to work in Senegal, but first I wanted to complement my training with design experience abroad, as there is as yet no aeronautical design center in Senegal," says the young woman.

Space adventure

So when the Senegalese Ministry of Higher Education contacted her school with a new project, Aïssatou Sidibe didn't hesitate to embrace this new mission: space. Senegal wants to take advantage of space applications for the country's economic, social and scientific development. This ambition includes nanosatellites, the small CubeSats that have revolutionized access to space, and in which the Centre Spatial Universitaire de Montpellier is a recognized expert.

This opened up a whole new world for Aïssatou Sidibe, who joined the first graduating class of the Space Systems Development program at Montpellier University in September 2020. A still predominantly male world, where she is the only woman. On the program: introduction to space systems, space project management, English for space, space law, mathematical tools for space, space mechanics....

Future managers

In short, it's a year with a space theme, helping to train future managers in the field. " I'm learning a lot, even though I already had some basic knowledge thanks to my training as an aeronautical engineer", explains the young woman. Aïssatou Sidibe hopes to bring this knowledge and know-how back to Senegal once she has completed her training. " A company manufacturing nanosatellites should be created there soon, and I could have a place there," confides the student.