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Tunisian Telecommunications engineer Houssem Haji invents autonomous receiver for a Mars exploration orbiter

The receiver, whose major stages of design and implementation were conducted by the Tunisian Telecommunication Engineer Houssem Haji, is the first of its kind and surpasses all previous designs in this area.

The project had taken 40 months of analysis, design and research. It had also taken 20 months of implementation, and it is now in the final phase of testing.

Houssem Haji, native of the delegation of Magel Bel Abbes in the governorate of Kasserine, studied communication engineering in Tunisia. He worked in some companies and then moved to France, then Belgium and from there to Luxembourg to work in an international electronics company.

This achievement had taken five years during which he devoted all his time to reading, studying and conducting tests to achieve his success, he said in an interview with TunisianMonitorOnline during which he spoke of the different stages of his academic and professional career.

Houssem Hajji added that he is very proud of being Tunisian, native of Kasserine and Magal Bel Abbes in particular, and as being the architect of the receiver for the European Space Agency (ESA), adding that it is mainly thanks to his family and to all his teachers and professors who were of a great help to him since his early days, from primary and secondary schools to his academic studies.

Houssem Haji said that from his early childhood he felt something particular and exceptional in his personality as a pupil at the primary school, enjoying his intelligence and outstanding eagerness through supervising the school clubs in different activities mainly scientific and writing poetry.

Houssem said he was born in a house that has its own library and gives much importance to books and reading because through reading, you expose yourself to new things, new information and new ways to solve a problem. He said:” My father was a headmaster who has a particular interest in books and knowledge along with my mother who considers study as sacred.

Houssem Hajji said that at the end of his primary school he was excellent and joined the pilot school in Gafsa where he had spent seven years. It is a very important stage in his life as it shaped his future and built his own personality, he indicated seizing the opportunity to extend his thanks to all the people he met in Gafsa mainly in the pilot school of Gafsa and all the teachers who taught him to be the person he is now. He said they help him practice his hobbies and fondness in literature, poetry along with information technology.

“I was aware of my intellectual capacity which I did not consider it as an egotism but knowing myself must be proved”, he underlined.

After the brilliant secondary school years, Houssem Hajji joined SupCom Higher School of Communication of Tunis which was his choice after the preparatory period. He said he was distinguished in mathematics and understood that he was devoted to this subject. “I was among the best students in SupCom. I was the first in Mathematics and physics in the contest of the Ecole Normale Superieur in which I was exempted from the oral exams”, He pointed out.

Houssem has never forgotten those who helped him in his career especially his professor Adel ghazel who believed in his capacities as an engineer telling him that “there are a lot of good students but you are the excellent one”.

Being an excellent student made it possible for him to work in his professor’s company in which he was free to excel and create at the age of 23, Houssem Haji said, and being responsible of a set of projects with a great component of research along with new researches in telecommunication algorithms and new inventions that were the good start of a research career.

Then he participated in researches in France funded by the Centre National D’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) stemming from the Institut National de Telecommunication and Paris 6 university where he made research in the field of Global Navigation and Satellite System (GNSS), he said.

In 2008, He went to Brussels and then to Luxembourg saying that it was a turning point in his life, after a small company called him to join its staff specialised in electronics as a digital communications engineer.

“I gave a new range in digital communications at the age of 26 with the ambition to make of my new company a great company in telecommunications, Houssem Haji said, indicating that he started in this company projects with the European Space Agency (ESA) evolving significant research activities with original technical and scientific problematics.

“Actually it was an adventure but we proved that we can succeed” he said. In fact I was the cornerstone of many projects as they trust me, the Tunisian Young Engineers went on saying.

Houssem Haji said that in response to an invitation to tender (ITT) published by ESA for the Mars Exploration Program, we submitted a proposal which consists of an autonomous receiver for an orbiter that will be put in orbit around Mars to receive signals from the landed assets on the ground of Mars.

“This challenge was a great one. My aim was to convince the company to work on this project. We submitted a technical proposal and we succeeded in convincing ESA on the basis of our efficient solutions and realistic proposal, Houssem Hajji said proudly.

Speaking of the project, he said it went through different phases. The first phase concerned analysis and design of the receiver and providing answers to all the questions which took a 40-month period during which Houssem Haji produced new algorithms by defining the architecture of the system.

The second phase was devoted to the achievement of a prototype which was not an easy task. He said he mainly worked on the digital side of the project (20 months) reaching a total of 5 years to finish the different phases and “now we are under the test phase, Houssem said commending the preliminary tests that were excellent.

Houssem Hajji the young Tunisian Engineer who excelled in his researches did not realize that this successful achievement could reach the people of Tunisia only when he noted the pride of the Tunisian people of their countryman.

“I felt the power and admission to give to youth some hope in this difficult time as we need it urgently. I felt that same pride as a Tunisian citizen native of Kasserine to share this success with all the people of Tunisia who deserve this glimpse of hope, Houssem Hajji said concluding that he worked on some part of the project in Tunisia which gave him a lot of energy being in the homeland breathing its air and enjoying the sunshine by spending four months in Tunisia and completing the project researches.

Houssem Haji’s extended a clear message to all the people of the globe when he voiced in his facebook page his pride, joy, thanks and gratefulness to “all those who by their conscious or unconscious attention, their help and their availability have made possible what I have done”:

« Veni, vidi, vici.

Today, and after almost five years of work, I have just completed the main stages of one of the largest projects I have worked on in space communications. This project, carried out for the European Space Agency (ESA), concerns the design and implementation of the autonomous receiver for an orbiter intended to be placed in orbit around the red planet as part of Mars Space Exploration programme. This receiver, that I am the principal architect, and whose first prototype is already functional and currently under test, is a rich concentration of technology containing a magnificent association of many new ideas, original techniques, inventions and high-level scientific and technical findings. The first tests confirm its exceptional performances that approach the theoretical limits and surpass all previous designs in this area.

In figures, this project is 40 months of investigation, research, analysis and design, and 20 months of implementation and development. It is also dozens of books read and re-read, hundreds of scientific publications analysed, thousands of pages of mathematical demonstrations, tens of thousands of lines of programs, thousands of hours of simulation, hundreds of technical notes and thousands of pages of reports focusing on digital communications, signal processing, algorithmics, and various branches of telecommunications, information theory and electronics.

Undoubtedly, this work was also for me a lot of sacrifices during 5 years of my life: long weekends spent at the office, in the lab, in the woods or the streets of Luxembourg to walk and cogitate, sleepless nights that I spent leaning over my books and documents, whole seasons without rest or breaks while keeping, for as long as I could, my motivation and my constant energy intact.

Today I am writing these few lines to share with you my joy and pride, and to thank at the same time all those who by their conscious or unconscious attention, their help and their availability have made possible what I have done.

I will never be able to express enough my gratitude to all those who, during the most difficult times, the periods of emptiness and the moments of doubt or uncertainty have continued to believe in me, despite the heaviness of the task and its scientific and technical complexity, as well as the atypical of my approach and the abstraction of my productions.

All my admiration goes first and foremost to all those who have marked my learning, particularly in science. Thank you to all my teachers who encouraged me to think, who tried to instill the virtues of rigour, who pushed me to look differently what seemed obvious to me, that allowed me to “tear off to the evidences of ordinary existence to ask extraordinary questions, or to ask in extraordinary way ordinary questions “, or who have generously let me read in the depths of their classes.

Thanks to my father, my very first teacher, to my late grandfather who offered me  my first encyclopedia, to Belgacem Boubakri who taught me by playing the French language, to Mohamed Raouf Kamoun who made me discover the first pleasures of a mathematical demonstration, to Slim Laabidi who taught me the love of wisdom, to Fadhel Smaoui who gave me the best courses in physics and chemistry that can exist, to Mr. Ramzy Labidi to have shown me more beautiful mathematics than all the ones I knew, to Hichem Besbes who introduced me to information theory, to Adel Ghazel who by his confidence in my talent, his involvement and his advice guided me during my years of specialisation and my first years of work and research, I thank him very much for generously sharing his enthusiasm, his energy, and his immense culture.

Although I have never had the chance to meet him before leaving this world, I would also like to thank Marvin K. Simon of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, for the valuable help he has given me by the depth, rigour and scope of its work.

You were all, as well as many others whom I will not be able to quote all here, a source of inspiration for me by the depth of your knowledge, the clarity of your ideas, your talents or simply your great kindness. It was thanks to all this that I found the energy to tackle problems that seemed insurmountable to me. Once again, I express my gratitude for what you have done for me.

Obviously, thanks to my mother for having always carefully kept the smallest piece of paper that contains these strange signs that I wrote and which she never knew the secrets but she always knew how to respect. She will probably remain the only person who does not know exactly what I am doing but who thinks deeply that it must be interesting, exceptional and beneficial, for the simple reason that it is me who does it! I thank her with all my heart and I dedicate to her, in the first place, all my works.

The journey of these years of investigation was accompanied by my co-workers, this nice mix of several engineering disciplines. I thank them for any direct or indirect help that they have been able to give me and for having always had in the eyes a spark of interest in what I am doing.

Finally, thanks to all these unique minds that I have met during all my journey, and who by their appreciation of the harmony of science and the flavour of good ideas have made the way less lonely and more beautiful.” Houssem Haji

TunisianMonitorOnline (MNHN)

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