Alex Mortimer, 31, an aerospace engineering student at Blackpool and The Fylde College, was hit with the inspiration for a network that would clean up space debris in low orbit, and spent 12 weeks developing his idea before presenting it to scientists at a conference in Edinburgh.
The project was dubbed ODIN – orbital desynchronisation industrial network – with one of its satellites being named LOKI – low orbit kinetic interceptor. The satellites would be used to collect small parts of space debris in low orbit, Alex explained in his presentation, which won him a Business of Science Innovation Award.
The dad of two, who lives in Fleetwood, said: “I cried when I won. I’ve always struggled fitting in and this was like being accepted. This has hopefully shown that I’m not just someone who follows everyone else but someone who thinks outside the box. It also showed me I was right to follow my passion.
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“I’d been working on a different idea but one day my course tutor, Hannah Taylor, sat me down and said I could do something completely different if my heart wasn’t in it. Space debris is always an issue and, as someone who wants to see humans explore space, it’s been in my mind to try and figure it out.
“I’d just parked my car up at college and, because I have a very vivid imagination, it came to me.”
Alex, who had space posters on his walls as a child, previously worked his way up from kitchen porter to chef at Barton Grange Garden Centre and Twelve Restaurant in Thornton. But, when his father, a fellow physics enthusiast, died unexpectedly in 2018, he decided to hang up his apron and pursue his life-long dream.
He said: “The reaction to the award from my tutors and the people on my course has been really supportive, they’ve been brilliant. The course can be mentally taxing but it’s amazing, and if it’s something you love then you keep going even when it’s challenging.
“The majority of my classmates are younger than me so I’m known as the class dad.
“The message from this is that it’s never too late to do something you’re passionate about.”