About SFL: Management Team

December 11, 2013

Dr. Robert E. Zee – Director, Space Flight Laboratory

Dr. Zee is the Director of the Space Flight Laboratory at UTIAS, and helped to establish the lab in 1998 in response to the opportunity to provide major contributions to the MOST microsatellite, Canada’s first space telescope. He was responsible for setting up numerous programs at SFL, and securing funding to develop new missions and new technologies that have enabled SFL to deliver some of the highest value space missions in the world. His responsibilities include strategic planning, business development, operations oversight, development practice, quality assurance policies, customer service, supervision, contract negotiation and management, finance and administration. In addition, he provides technical review, systems engineering input, and program guidance to the SFL staff. Dr. Zee also supervises graduate students with thesis topics related to microspace missions and technology under development at SFL. Dr. Zee has worked for Allied Signal Aerospace Company, Spar Aerospace Ltd., and IBM Canada Ltd. He holds a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Systems Design Engineering with a minor in Management Sciences from the University of Waterloo, and Master of Applied Science and PhD degrees in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Toronto.

GrocottDr. Simon C. O. Grocott – Deputy Director, Missions

Dr. Grocott manages microsatellite projects, and provides program and systems engineering input to project managers at SFL. Dr. Grocott conducts monthly audits of projects and provides detailed technical review. He is responsible for overseeing the development and production practice at SFL to ensure consistent standards are maintained. He assists with administration, facilities management, and business development activities. Projects managed by Dr. Grocott include NEMO-AM, NEMO-HD, and SFL’s contribution to M3MSat. Prior to joining SFL, Dr. Grocott was Head of Systems Engineering at Astrium (UK). Prior to his experience at Astrium, he was Project Manager for MOST and Attitude Control Systems Manager at Dynacon Inc. Dr. Grocott also worked at MacDonald Dettwiler Space Robotics (formerly Spar Aerospace Ltd.) He obtained his Bachelor of Applied Science degree from the University of Toronto, and his Master and PhD degrees from MIT in Aeronautics and Astronautics.

freddy M. PRANAJAYAFreddy M. Pranajaya – Deputy Director, Innovation

Mr. Pranajaya manages a number of programs including SFL’s Next-generation Launch Service (NLS), Radiation Test Program, XPOD Development Program, New Instrument Research, and Propulsion System Research. He also assists with systems engineering in microsatellite projects at SFL. Mr. Pranajaya is involved in strategic planning and business development, and is responsible for the development of innovative mission concepts. Mr. Pranajaya obtained his Bachelor of Science degree at Worcester Polytechnic University, and his Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering at Stanford University. He has been with SFL since 2001.

beattie-headshotAlexander M. Beattie – Senior Mission Manager

Alex Beattie manages multiple missions and provides systems engineering input to SFL satellite projects. He is SFL’s lead communications engineer with expertise in communication systems and ground stations.  With a background in Aerospace Engineering, he joined the SFL team in 2001. He was MOST’s communications engineer, and designed major portions of the MOST spacecraft and ground station communication systems. He was also a core member of the assembly, test, and launch operations team. Subsequent to the launch of MOST, he developed innovative UHF and S-band radios and antennas for SFL satellites, and has been flight director on a number of different commissioning campaigns for various missions. He has been project manager and systems engineer for missions such as AISSat-1, AISSat-2 and NORSAT-1. Mr. Beattie graduated from Carleton University in Aerospace Engineering and obtained his Master of Applied Science degree from the University of Toronto.

SardaKaran Sarda – Mission Manager

Karan Sarda manages missions and is SFL’s lead attitude control engineer. He provides oversight to all attitude control engineers at SFL working on various satellite projects. Mr. Sarda ensures consistency between projects and exercises strict control over SFL’s attitude control simulator and flight software. Prior to his lead role in attitude control systems, Mr. Sarda was SFL’s lead thermal design engineer and completed detailed thermal analysis for a number of important space missions including but not limited to CanX-2, NTS and BRITE. Mr. Sarda also plays a leading role in the operation and maintenance of facilities and provides guidance to all spacecraft-level thermal vacuum test campaigns. Mr. Sarda holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Carleton University, and a Master of Applied Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Toronto. He has been on staff at SFL since 2004.

jlifshits_headshot-smallJakob Lifshits – Mission Manager

Since joining SFL in 2008, Jakob has played a major role on many of SFL’s satellite missions, both on-orbit and currently in development. In his position as Program Manager, Jakob’s responsibilities include oversight and management of all aspects of satellite programs, business development, and mentorship of staff and students. His expertise is in the fields of spacecraft systems design, embedded systems, electronic design, and software architecture. Jakob holds a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Waterloo, and a Master of Applied Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Toronto.

Brad Cotten – Mission Manager

Brad is mission manager and systems engineer for several satellite projects at SFL. He is also the lead thermal control engineer, providing thermal design review and guidance across all projects. In addition, Brad plays an important role in SFL business development efforts by evaluating mission concepts, completing preliminary spacecraft designs, and delivering technical proposals. Since joining SFL in 2012, Brad has contributed to over ten different satellite missions through project management, systems engineering, thermal design and analysis, spacecraft environmental testing, mechanical design, electronics design, and software development. His most significant contribution has been as the manager and systems engineer for SFL’s successful CanX-7 drag sail mission. Brad completed his Bachelor of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Waterloo, and his Masters of Applied Science in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Toronto.

Benoit LaroucheBenoit Larouche – Mission Manager

Dr. Larouche manages missions at SFL with expertise in structural analysis, spacecraft assembly, and systems design. He has played a major role in many SFL missions, spanning from the 3U CanX-2 mission in 2008 to the 65 kg NEMO-HD earth observation mission launched in 2020. He has been a lead for new satellite platform and development, optical payload design and integration, spacecraft assembly and environmental testing, launch support and coordination, actuated mechanisms, and separation systems. Dr. Larouche has been part of SFL since 2006, obtaining his Master of Applied Science in 2008 from the University of Toronto, before leaving to obtain his Doctorate from York University and subsequently returning to SFL in 2013.


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