Joel Keen

Joel Keen

Space Engineering Technician

Joel's job title is Precision Machinist at RAL Space

What I do

I would describe it as prototype manufacturing. I produce little radio receivers for satellites and also work with companies and organisations interested in this area of high precision work. Some of the parts I make are assembled using a hair on the end of a pair of tweezers – that’s how small we’re talking. 

Because we produce radio receivers, I can work for clients in all kinds of industries. A lot of our satellite parts feed into the European Space Agency. I’m also working on a project for NASA and the Italian Space Agency.

Hear more about Joel's role by watching the video below...

How I became a technician

A typical day in my
working life

In the morning I check the automated machines to make sure they’re running well. I then check what the day’s priorities are. If I’m working on a new job, I’ll speak to the designer to discuss any queries that need to be approved before I start making it. I’ll then work on the designer’s 3D model to produce a series of cutting paths, which converts it from a block of metal into the finished part. Then I produce a prototype and set them up for a production-type run – anything from four blocks to 40.

A surprising fact about my job

I always find it impressive that we have sent parts into orbit – and beyond orbit as well!

A little more about
my everyday role

What I love most about my job

I love how advances in technology and software can have such a direct impact on the work that I do.
We now have a generation of machines and software that can talk to each other, whereas perhaps ten years ago we wouldn’t have had. I’m excited about the improvements to come, that’ll mean the work I do is more efficient.

The best bits about working in a team

I enjoy being part of a team. I work with people who have experience in lots of different areas, so it’s nice to be able to ask them questions – they’re always happy to give advice. Everyone has their own specialities to offer.

The next steps in my career journey

Once I graduate from my Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of Lincoln, I can register professionally as an Incorporated Engineer (IEng) with the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. At the moment, I’m an Engineering Technician member, so this will be the next step up. If I carry on studying, I can become a Chartered Engineer.

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