When Raenaurd Turpin talks about satellites, you can see the passion in his face for bringing people together.
Turpin, who has served for three years as the Commercial Satellites and Common Products chief engineer and 21 years with Boeing, explains to his children and others new to the satellite field that
“We are connecting the world in ways it has never been connected before.”
That’s especially the case with continued advancements in new technologies such as Boeing’s 702X platform of satellites, which are smaller, more efficiently built and provide increased capability, connectivity, flexibility and performance.
“This technology is the glue that holds us all together,” Turpin said. “Most people don’t stop to think that what they’re doing on their cell phones is enabled by satellites.”
“Connecting individuals leads to economic empowerment, improvements in education, early detection from threats and weather events, not just for our country but all of humanity,” he added.
First introduced in 2019, the 702X satellites allow commercial and government operators to distribute capacity to a variety of end users, connecting businesses, ships, airplanes, autonomous vehicles and broadband internet users around the world.
The 702X satellites incorporate the heritage of Boeing’s 702 technology, which is the legacy of highly reliable satellites, with the X that is the new technology. The 702X combines Boeing’s most advanced digital payloads with transformational manufacturing technologies and innovative resource management techniques allowing operators to reprogram payloads from the ground and reallocate resources.
“We know how to make reliable satellites in multiple orbits,” Turpin said. “Space is a very harsh environment so being able to operate anywhere from LEO (low Earth orbit) to MEO (medium Earth orbit) to GEO (geosynchronous orbit) and other orbits really requires a company that has been in the space business for some time. So that flexibility in the orbits as well as the programmability of the payload says that this is the platform for the future that can grow and expand and extend to cover many more missions for generations.”
Leveraging technology commonly used on cell phones and laptops, but for use in space, Turpin gives the analogy of software and firmware updates used in cars, which allows for changing the performance of a vehicle from remote locations.
“The future, which we’ve actually stepped into, is the programmable satellite,” Turpin said. “That means that we can make a generic satellite of a single model, and we can reprogram it. No matter what nation or area or orbit that you choose to operate from, you can actually upload parameters to change the characteristics of the antenna of that satellite, to change the shape of the beams that are incoming, and also the location of the users that you’re sending all of that information to.”
The technology and continued advancements and capabilities for satellites in the future is inspiring to Turpin. As a youth growing up in the countryside of Louisiana, his first choice for reading was an Encyclopedia set where he’d always turn to the 1960s space race, Apollo and Atlas rockets. His mother is also a scientist in the aerospace industry.
“Aerospace was always part of my core interest growing up. My first love was always engineering and creating something better,” Turpin said.
He’ll be doing just that also in his new role joining Boeing’s Disruptive Computing & Networks (DC&N) organization as director of System Architectures. He will be leading the development of advanced sensors and resilient networks, including initiatives to enable exascale computing, which essentially means the ability to perform a billion operations per second. Other areas of interest will include artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyber-secure processors.