Ready for liftoff |
Jennifer Terman
Staff Writer

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Ready for liftoff

Ever since she was a kid, Nevada County native and aerospace engineer Sally Hermansen wanted to be an engineer involved in something big.

Last week, the Amazonas 3 satellite, which she helped develop, was launched successfully by Arianespace in French Guiana.

"Being involved in the whole process has been extremely rewarding," Hermansen said. "Until (Feb. 7), I had never seen a rocket launch in person. It was absolutely incredible watching something that our team worked so hard to leave the earth."

Hermansen was one of the developers from Space Systems/Loral, which built the Amazonas 3 multi-mission satellite for the HISPASAT satellite communications group, which will bring telecommunications services to Latin America, Europe and North Africa, according to the Space Systems/Loral website.

The path to build a satellite involved hard work and dedication, said Hermansen, who always took well to math and science classes in school and, after she graduated from Nevada Union, decided to study Aerospace Engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

"I was always fascinated by space and decided I was up for the challenge. And it was definitely a challenge!" Hermansen said. "My classes were difficult but very interesting. It would have been tough to make it through the program if I wasn't passionate about the subject and determined to do it."

Hermansen then received a summer internship at Space Systems/Loral, which led to a full-time position.

"The internship was very hands-on, testing the satellites, and I loved it," Hermansen said. "That summer they offered me a full-time position when I graduated from school that winter, and I couldn't turn it down."

Hermansen's mother, Holly, the superintendent of Nevada County schools, said she found pride and relief in her daughter's success to find a job she enjoys.

"When Sally graduated from college, I was thrilled that she had found such a wonderful job," Holly Hermansen said. "Like any parent, I want her to be successful and, most importantly, happy, and I am so, so pleased and proud that she found a job she loves."

The development of the satellite allowed Hermansen to actually witness the product of her effort as it was launched, she said.

"My training path at Space Systems/Loral was to follow one satellite through integration and testing as an electrical technician/engineer in training," Hermansen said. "Part of following one satellite through testing is following it to launch base where it is integrated into a rocket and prepared for launch."

Hermansen said her passion for engineering and satellite development will hopefully lead to more missions in the future.

"It was absolutely incredible watching something that our team worked so hard on leave the earth," Hermansen said. "I am excited to start working on more satellites when I get back to California."

Though Nevada County is a relatively small place, those who work hard and persevere can accomplish their goals, Hermansen said.

"There are few women in the field, and I would love to see more," Hermansen said. "I hope to be able to motivate young girls to work hard and follow their dreams, it is so worth it!"

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call 530-477-4230.