Roisin Speight, Systems Engineer
As a Systems Engineer at RAL Space I am involved in the design, build and test of spacecraft instrumentation. This is an exciting and varied role and one which means I’ve literally designed and handled hardware which is currently in space and is either improving our telecommunications or helping us understand more about the world around us.
I feel really lucky to have a job that I find exciting and challenging and which is so diverse that it’s hard to be bored!
In my current role I’m involved in all aspects of the instrument lifecycle: from the initial concept phase, then detailed design and finally seeing hardware be manufactured and tested. I find it very rewarding to be working alongside and technically leading a team of people to achieve a common, challenging goal; especially when the goal is as inspiring as successfully delivering an instrument to be installed on a spacecraft.
The space industry is an exciting and challenging place to work. It’s an industry which requires a lot of team work and collaboration, some things which are often overlooked when you think of a “typical engineer”. Engineers are often stereotyped, but from my experience there’s no such thing as a typical engineer; what they do have in common is an eagerness to know the answers to “why” and “how”, and that we work together in order to be able to answer these questions.
Whatever your background, if you’re someone who asks “why” and “how” then engineering could be an interesting career choice for you. Whatever it is that inspires and excites you, there’s bound to be a way to make it better or more efficient, and as an engineer you could be the one to help make that happen. Whether you come through the Engineering Degree route as I did, or via an Apprentice Scheme, there are lots of different routes to becoming an engineer dependant on your individual strengths, skills and interests.
Sandy Fok, Mechanical Engineer
I discovered in high school that I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. It was through my love of maths, physics, figuring out how things work and a passion for craft and design that led me to wanting to do something with practical problem solving. I recall reading a vague description of a mechanical engineer – “develop and design machinery such as automotive vehicles, gas turbines, air conditioning units...” from this definition it hadn’t crossed my mind that I would be working in the space industry – but it turns out, engineers are everywhere!
I joined STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council) in the RAL Space department as a graduate mechanical engineer and I now design calibration equipment for space instruments. My role allows me to follow projects from its conceptual stage to its design development, from its manufacture to its calibration, and all the way through to instrument delivery, all while working closely with engineers from other disciplines. During these stages I use 3D CAD (computer aided design) modelling to allow us to visualise and manipulate the design. The solution is then further developed using various analysis techniques from hand calculations to simulations using FEA (finite element analysis) which can determine the feasibility of the design such as the structural integrity and whether the design fulfils requirements. I also oversee the manufacturing then help assemble the instruments in cleanrooms and test them in vacuum test chambers. One of the most rewarding things is seeing an instrument that I helped create in full operation for the first time!
For me, being an engineer is to come up with solutions to a problem, and this is something that I’ve enjoyed since a young age. My advice for those wanting to follow the same career path is to develop a variety of knowledge and skills, both academic and core and always keep expanding on them. This will help you to “think like an engineer” but also give you the tools to convey your ideas to others, as a large part of engineering is working in a team. And of course, do what you enjoy but also never be afraid to get out of your comfort-zone!
For more information on space engineers, please click here to see the UKSA blog.