Employee Spotlight: Peter Johnston, Spacecraft Electronics Design Engineer

Peter Johnston

What’s your role?

I am a Spacecraft Electronics Design Engineer (I love that I get to call myself that) in the Space Services Platform Engineering team. I work on the design and qualification of electronic circuit boards and systems. My work typically encompasses supporting integration of customer payloads into our satellites, but I’ve also recently been involved in developing the newest version of our core satellite systems.

My work on electronic design at Spire involves collaborating with stakeholders on a concept or block diagram that drives a schematic drawing; then I work closely with mechanical engineering colleagues to create a physical circuit board design. Our supply chain team arranges for the boards to be manufactured and assembled externally, and thereafter, I assist with testing and support our manufacturing team with anything they need to integrate the fully qualified designs into satellites.

Describe your journey to Spire.

Growing up in the north of Scotland, I was always blown away by how many stars you can see on a clear night. When I was young, I remember reading books and watching videos about rocket launches and the space race. After studying electronics engineering at the University of Glasgow, I worked for a product design company that developed data acquisition products. I first heard of Spire in 2015 when I applied for an electronics role. Sadly I didn’t get the job but I was thoroughly impressed with what was then a young company, and it certainly put Spire on my radar and instilled a desire to one day work in the space industry. Fast forward a few years, I was working for a local laser company. During the Covid lockdowns in 2020 I discovered YouTube channels such as Everyday Astronaut and Scott Manley, and I closely followed SpaceX’s Starship and Crew Demo/Crew Dragon launch efforts, rekindling my interest in space in general. I was approached in early 2021 about reapplying and have been tremendously excited to be part of Spire’s story since then.

What Spire value do you relate to the most?

Relentless – I strive to constantly improve and learn, whether that’s furthering my own engineering skills or those of others. My 3x great grandfather worked in the shipbuilding industry in Glasgow in the late 1800s and my grandfather was a civil engineer, so I think I inherited from them a passion for understanding how things work and how things go together as well as some skills in innovative design. I find taking things apart or watching teardown videos a great way to discover creative solutions to design challenges. In my last job I started mentoring those around me, and I recently took over running Spire’s EE Guild where those of us with an interest in electronics engineering get together to discuss process improvements for the tools we use as well as learning opportunities such as presenting interesting circuits, techniques or parts. I really enjoy helping to further the skills and knowledge of our already brilliant team, and I think it’s great that Spire allows us the time to do this.

What inspires you most about the work you do every day

I feel incredibly proud that the stuff I design goes to space, and I still can’t believe that this is what I get to do for a living! I love that the work I do contributes to Spire making a global impact, with our customers and partners using our data and our platform for incredibly innovative applications and ideas to make the world a better place. It’s also a real pleasure to work with such a passionate, dedicated and talented team of people.

What keeps you busy outside of work?

Aside from spending time with my young family, my friends and colleagues all know about my obsession with Lego. When I was young, my favorite set was probably the Technic Space Shuttle. I have had a few years off, but I rediscovered Lego after university, collecting all of the space sets, numerous Star Wars replicas and started designing some of my own models too. These include a skyline of Glasgow, which went a little bit viral, a model of my wedding venue with individually customized versions of all our guests given as favors, and when my friends and family have bought homes, gifted them mini versions of their houses or flats. More recently my colleagues will have seen my designs of various Spire satellites, which continue to be fun to work on and have helped me learn more about how our satellites are built. I’m looking forward to participating in more Spire Lego building sessions and seeing more Lego satellites dotted around our offices!

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