Ellen Feeney, Vienna Internship 2024


Guten tag!

As a Flinders student and representative, I was able to apply for this opportunity to participate in the Vienna Internship at the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI). This internship awarded me the chance to showcase my knowledge of law and policies from an Australian perspective, as well as step into the world of European space knowledge. Being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the internship was intense, emotional, exhausting, and something I will genuinely never regret – particularly since it reaffirmed for me my future career goals lie in Outer Space policy and law, inspired by past Flinders topics.

Flying halfway across the world – alongside fellow participants Eloise Clarke and Sailor Tyler – for an unimaginable internship was beyond nerve-wracking and exciting. The Austrian winter was not nearly as familiar as an Australian summer, insofar that Kathmandu was one of my last stops prior to leaving Adelaide, to make sure I had thermals and boots warm enough for that time of year. But not even the winter could diminish how incredible it was to be one of the first Flinders representatives immersed in the heart of European space policy, hoping to share not only an Australian understanding on Space, but to increase our knowledge as well.

Ellen Feeney at the ESPI office inauguration ceremony

For our project, Australian Defence: Counterspace Technologies and National Security Threats from Space, ESPI’s engagement with space security was invaluable. Given an opportunity to engage with open-source information and direction by Lead on Security and Defence, Mathieu Bataille, our project came together to present the current state of Australian defence primarily focused on Space and security, where there are opportunities for development and innovation, but also to consider the current socio-political state of the world itself.

Foundation knowledge outside my regular studies of law and policy was provided dominantly by the new Outer Space topic, INNO3007. Through Kathryn Hasani and Stacey Henderson, I was introduced to Marco Aliberti, a senior research fellow of ESPI. Marco would become one of our primary project leads and contacts leading up to departure for Vienna and upon return to Adelaide, alongside Mathieu, and their knowledge has been invaluable. More importantly, however, Marco’s enthusiasm for Space and all aspects of the sector was infectious – and shared amongst the staff of ESPI as well. So, making the journey hundreds of kilometres from home to such a well-respected think-tank like ESPI was nerve-wracking, but knowing how open and generous they all were with research, ideas, and opinions, was amazing.

Attending a discussion with Australian aerospace company Gate Space

Of course, acknowledging any possible cultural differences doesn’t always prepare you for such an experience. ESPI’s office was full of likeminded researchers from Sweden to Spain, France, and even Canada, but the social interaction was a learning experience for us all as well. Did we play into the Aussie stereotypes? Absolutely! That’s part of the fun of it, too. Having an opportunity to watch peers try Vegemite for the first time, and introduce them to Timtams and Yo-yos was amazing, as well as talk about native fauna (and insist that knowing bears are in the nearby mountain ranges is far more terrifying than any old spider in a shed back home).

Through ESPI, I was also given the opportunity to be able to attend events and talk with organisations I would never have had the chance to otherwise. Being given observer status at the United Nations allowed me to sit in on the 67th Committee On the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS)’s meetings, which ran for a fortnight. There, I was introduced to representatives of the Permanent Mission of Spain to the United Nations, representatives from space agencies such as the German Space Agency (DLR), but also witness the Australian Ambassador to Austria, Ian Biggs, give his statements and responses to topics regarding space security.

Connecting with the Australian Ambassador to Austria, Ian Biggs
L-R: Ambassador Ian Briggs, Eloise Clarke, Ellen Feeney, Sailor Tyler

But time was not solely spent filling up my diary with events, meetings, and opportunities to engage with start-ups and researchers. Immersing myself in the culture of Vienna was just as much a part of the internship as was the project. Whilst I’m fairly certain I only experienced maybe 40% of what Vienna had to offer, attending an opera at the State Opera House, standing in front of The Kiss by Gustav Klimt at the Belvedere Museum, and visiting the Royal Apartments once lived in by Empress Sisi was incredible. Eloise and I also had the opportunity to go to the Formula 1 Exhibition on one of our weekends. Part of this was my introduction to F1 in general, and it has since become a running joke with my parents at how much I follow the sport now.

But at the end, I was sad to leave Vienna, which had become a home-away-from-home. Yet knowing what we have achieved, I am immensely proud of our participation on the internship and having a chance to put Adelaide on the map for future Space endeavours.

P.S. For any questions, queries, or tips, please feel free to contact me regarding Vienna or Space via email, or even if you spot me around campus!

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Vienna Internship Program

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