2 minute read
What is your current role, and why is it important to RAL Space?
My current role is Senior Mechanical Assembly Integration and Test Technician in the RAL Space Production group. I have over 35 years of experience in specialist assembly and my key role now is to ensure this knowledge is passed on to new engineers and technicians for future space projects and wider industries.
How did you get into your current position?
I left school and undertook a 4-year mechanical apprenticeship at Harwell training school, which gave me a very good understanding of key hand skills and machine operations. After this I spend 3 years operating machine tools in various workshops at the UK Atomic Energy Authority, producing hardware for the Joint European Torus (JET) project and the various experimental tokamaks on the site. During this time, it became very evident to me that I really enjoyed the hands-on, intricate jobs rather than the large heavy machining work.
Moving forward, I was given the opportunity to change my career path and join the Assembly Integration Verification (AIV) group in RAL Space as a test technician, operating and maintaining the various test facilities used for providing the space environment for testing space instruments. The role also involved supporting the manufacture of Multi-Layer Insulation blankets for space hardware, which I enjoyed immensely. I really relished the challenge of designing, manufacturing and wrapping a complex shape in foil, and this work allowed me to visit various facilities around the world to integrate the blankets I had manufactured onto the space hardware itself. This included a trip to NASA in the United States to integrate MLI blankets onto the James Webb Space Telescope's Mid-Infrared Instrument, which is a project I'm very proud to have been part of.
As the AIV group became more test-based, my role changed and I became responsible for the assembly and integration of complex instruments and assemblies. The role includes involvement in design reviews and detailed work packages which allow me to use my knowledge and experiences to support a range of projects.
I was also given the chance to develop and manage the then-new Production group, which gave me new challenges involving management of staff and recruitment. Unfortunately this meant I spent less time doing what I enjoy best, which is hands on activities, so I stepped aside to allow a new leader to run the group.
What's the best thing about your job?
Having instruments and parts that I have handled or built, orbiting in space or sitting on a far-flung planet, along with the varied and challenging work we are presented with. Every instrument has its own challenges, and each day is different. I also work with some very clever people in many disciplines, who all have knowledge that I can use to help me with my own development.
What do you value about working for RAL Space?
The great diversity of work we are involved in, the chance to work with very clever people on challenging projects, and the opportunity to travel to other organisations around the world.
What advice would you give to people looking for a job in your industry?
Take every opportunity you can to learn something new. Never be frightened of changing direction in your career path. Always ask questions, it does not matter how silly you think they might sound, and keep everything as simple as possible.
Is there anything you wish you could tell your younger self now?
Push yourself and have self-belief. I am very good at what I do.