Katherine’s career story

In high school, when asked to write down three different career options, Katherine only wrote down one – astronaut – and refused to add any others.

In 2023, as an employee of the Australian Space Agency, Katherine was invited by the European Space Agency (ESA) to undertake Basic Astronaut Training in Germany, becoming the first international astronaut candidate to do so.

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A childhood dream

With the encouragement of her parents, Katherine researched what she would need to do to become an astronaut. She worked hard at school, studying Maths, English, Chemistry, Physics, and Economics in her final year. Plus, she took part in a range of extra-curriculars targeting a career in space: aerobatic flying lessons, amateur astronomy, sports and debating.

In 2007, Katherine graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) – Aeronautical Engineering (Space) and a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) – Physics from the University of Sydney. She kept busy during her studies, completing internships as a mechanical engineer, as a physics researcher, and later, working as a computer programmer. She was also an Australian Army Reservist, a volunteer in the NSW SES, and travelled to India with Engineers Without Borders.

 

Space career taking off

Over the next decade, Katherine worked across Europe on a range of space projects, such as: human spaceflight missions and technologies, facilities for the International Space Station, debris removal concepts, scientific studies, Earth observation, and space exploration missions.

During this time, Katherine had two daughters with her husband, Spacecraft Systems Engineer Campbell Pegg. The family returned to Australia in 2019, to join the Australian Space Agency, where both Katherine and Campbell accepted roles. Katherine worked as the Assistant Manager of the Chief Technology Office for three years before becoming the Director of Space Technology for the Agency.

‘I have always dreamed of being an astronaut. When I was young, it was for the adventure, but after more than a decade working in space it’s now because I know the role it plays in tackling real-world problems and developing new knowledge that can benefit our society, environment, and science,’ Katherine says.

 

A life-changing opportunity

In 2021, Katherine took a large stride toward her goal of becoming an astronaut. As a dual UK citizen, she was eligible to apply to ESA’s new call for astronauts. Out of 22,500 eligible applicants, she was one of only 25 people to successfully pass all selection stages.

In 2023, Katherine began Basic Astronaut Training at the European Astronaut Centre in Germany. The 39-year-old, along with the five ESA astronaut candidates, is due to graduate in April 2024, qualified for assignment on long-duration missions to the International Space Station and beyond.

‘I want to use this experience to open doors for Australian scientists and engineers to utilise space for their discoveries, to inspire the pursuit of STEM careers, and show all Australians that they too can reach for the stars.’

Upon graduation, Katherine will become Australia’s first female astronaut. She is also the first person to train as an astronaut under the Australian flag.

Katherine’s career journey timeline

2007

Graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) – Aeronautical Engineering (Space) and a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) – Physics from the University of Sydney. Katherine received the Charles Kuller Graduation Prize for the first-placed undergraduate thesis in the School of Aeronautical, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering.

2008

Katherine was awarded the 'Sword of Honour' for 'the most exemplary conduct, leadership and performance of duty', and the 'Field Marshal Sir Thomas Blamey Memorial Award' for first place in her graduating class of officers at the Royal Military College – Australian Army.

2014-19

Lived in Europe and worked for AIRBUS DS GmbH in Germany, as a project manager, lead systems engineer and service operations lead. During this time Katherine married Spacecraft Systems Engineer Campbell Pegg and the couple welcomed two daughters.

2019

Returned to Australia to join the Australian Space Agency as the Assistant Manager of the Chief Technology Office. She worked in this role for three years before becoming the Director of Space Technology for the Agency.

2023

Began training at the European Space Agency’s European Astronaut Centre in Germany.

Key resources

Our key space career job roles and study pathways information is packaged up into downloadable PDFs that students, teachers or parents can easily browse through and keep as a handy reference.

a poster of multiple space professionals

Space careers booklet

This resource covers all the space careers we talk about online, and can be downloaded by students, teachers or parents to read, share or use in the classroom.

Download

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