Working as a Spacecraft Operations Engineer
Interview with Richard Dyer, Spacecraft Operations Engineer.
Your role is Spacecraft Operations Engineer with EUMETSAT’s Metop Low Earth Orbit Satellites. What does it involve?
There’s no such thing as a normal day in the office, or even a normal year. Our work on a particular mission can begin 10 years before the launch of a new satellite. Firstly, we need to define ways to make operating our satellites as reliable as we can so that we can help provide a reliable flow of data to weather forecasters. We then follow the development of all the systems required to operate the satellites and their testing, finally taking control of the satellites a couple of days after launch where we have several weeks of intensive testing to ensure everything has survived.
After this, the main activities are resolving anomalies which occur on the satellites, carefully sifting through data from the satellites to spot any signs of degradation and finally planning and executing disposal operations at the end of their lives.
We’re typically working on several different missions at different phases simultaneously, so the work can be very diverse.
What qualifications do you need to be a Spacecraft Operations Engineer?
Most people have degrees in physics, engineering or mathematics. I studied physics with astrophysics.
But the more important thing is the way you think – you’ve got to be quite logically minded, good at problem solving and also quite creative in identifying new ideas and ways of doing things.
Enthusiasm is also important – you need to be prepared to invest time in ideas with no guarantee that they’ll work!
What do you like about working at EUMETSAT and your job in particular?
I like the international working environment and also the building and its surroundings are very nice. The social life is also excellent with a diverse range of social clubs and events.
In my job, the most rewarding aspect is seeing the results of years of planning preparation for a new satellite pay off – from something as small as seeing the satellite behave as expected when you send a command, all the way up to the gradual improvements we’re seeing in weather forecasting thanks to our satellites.