My summer placement at RAL Space: Ben Keeble, project manager
24 Nov 2022



In this blog post, Ben Keeble describes his experience on a summer placement with RAL Space’s Radiometry Group.

Ben Keeble wearing a clean room suit, standing outside of RAL Space's 3-metre space test chamber next to the SLSTR instrument.

​​​Ben and SLSTR outside the 3m space test chamber at RAL Space. Credit: Ben Keeble / STFC RAL Space / Leonardo​​​


3 minute read

I first heard about this opportunity at RAL Space while searching for a summer placement. I personally find these placements are a great opportunity to develop skills that you can’t achieve through formal education alone, and RAL Space offered a rare opportunity to directly work with and manage many different scientists in a large array of fields, which I thought would be incredibly valuable.

During my time here, I have been working as a project manager for part of the European Space Agency's (ESA) Sentinel-3 satellite, which is part of the Copernicus Earth Observation programme. RAL Space is leading the testing schedule for the satellite's Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) instrument, which requires the coordination of a large number of individual teams and participants in order to ensure the project's success. 


​The SLSTR instrument in a clean room at RAL Space. Credit: STFC RAL Space / Leonardo

SLSTR will measure sea and land surface temperature from space to support climate monitoring, and its test campaign is being led by a multi-disciplinary team across RAL Space. It is incredibly important that the test campaign is managed correctly as it is not possible to service these cutting-edge scientific instruments after they have been launched!

My work has involved setting up the shift schedule for the 24-hour testing campaign, shadowing test procedures, ordering and arranging the finance for external testing where required and analysing some of the data produced during the testing cycle. 

I can't even begin to quantify how useful this learning experience at RAL Space has been to me! Learning about the procedures used across Sentinel-3 has given me a broader understanding of how to manage complex engineering challenges and conflicting requirements inolving multiple different groups and seeing how the project develops over time. It has been a truly unique experiene.

​Ben in the clean room alongside the SLSTR instrument. Credit: Ben Keeble / STFC RAL Space / Leonardo​

In terms of my technical skills, I have improved my understanding of coding within both Julia and Python, systems engineering, conflict resolution as well as patience.

From the very beginning, the team were very inclusive and welcoming, and I was always encouraged to sit with them in their regular weekly meetings as well as facility readiness review meetings with partners from across Europe. It has been a fantastic opportunity to contribute to such a high profile project, and reading about the importance of the mission in the news highlighted the relevance of the work that I was doing.

On a technical level, the Radiometry Group have been very supportive in helping me learn all the new concepts I had to capture in my work. They were frequently available to help me solve any problems I encountered and to explain to me the intricacies of any part of the project I was struggling with. I would recommend pursuing a summer placement at RAL Space as they are incredible. Overall, I have really enjoyed my time here, and am very grateful to have had this opportunity.