Test Operator


Direct Entry Job Permanent Didcot, UK

Uploaded 15 Dec 2020

Job Description

The UK has invested £99m in the National Satellite Test Facility, in construction at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Harwell. This facility will provide a world class set of co-located facilities for the assembly, integration and testing of space payloads and satellites. The facility will have the capability to conduct Vibration, Acoustic, Thermal, Pyroshock, Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) and antennae testing for payloads up to 7 tonnes within clean room conditions.

This new investment adds to the existing facilities operated by RAL Space department, part of Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), within UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The NSTF is currently in the early construction phase, anticipated to finish construction in 2020, and moving into facility commissioning in 2020/21. The operation of both the new and existing environmental test facilities are the responsibility of the Environmental Test Division, in order to support the transition to operations of the new facilities, the division needs to expand significantly.

Job Description

The role of test operator will be to operate testing in Thermal Vacuum Testing Group. 

There will be a range of test activities conducted in our existing and future facilities and the role of test operator will be to work under the direction of a principal test engineer with them present for the larger campaigns, or for lower complexity testing, under their supervision.

During the test campaigns there will be the requirement for 24hr shift working, the current practice is a 12-hour shift pattern, for which additional payment would be made. There may also be the requirement to be on an on-call rota to support testing and there would be additional payment to recompense for this function.

We are expecting to operate the majority of the facilities to ECSS-Q-ST-20-07C. The test operator will need to ensure that the test facilities are operated and maintained within the overall quality requirements of the Environmental Test Facilities, working closely with the RAL Space quality function to ensure compliance and maintain this compliance through the lifetime of the facilities. This will mean both supporting the creation of specific procedures as well as following existing and new procedures.

There may be opportunity to assist in the definition of proposed new facilities or upgrades to the existing facilities. 

Where developments of the facilities are required, it would be expected that the requirements would be owned and set by the operational group, RAL Space has project and engineering functions which would be engaged to deliver within a structured project environment. The operational team would be expected to be highly engaged through any delivery phase, taking responsibility for the final commissioning and bringing into full operation.

The duties and responsibilities are as follows:

  • Possible direct line management responsibilities for junior test operators
  • Responsible for preparing and conducting the tests
  • Support the creation and maintain the technical performance envelope of the equipment
  • Assemble test setups, both mechanical and electronic
  • Pump down, monitor, and be responsible for the operation of thermal cycling and thermal vacuum chambers. Including the working with liquid nitrogen
  • Maintain test logbooks, in a neat and organised manner
  • Support the creation of and implement maintenance plan
  • Support the creation of and maintain calibration plans
  • Responsible for the safe operation of the equipment
  • Following Health and Safety standards, STFC codes & policies
  • Support the creation and maintenance of risk assessments for facilities as well as specific test campaigns
  • Support the creation and maintenance of the operational procedures relevant to the equipment
  • Support the Principal Test Engineer at bid stage for the test facilities.

Contacts and Communication

The Test Operator may report to the relevant Group Leader or to one of the Principal Test Engineers (dependant on line management structure at the time). Under the test campaign they would work under the direction of the principal test engineer for the duration of the test.

Key contacts and communications will be with:

  • Other Test Engineers and Operators within ETD (TVAC, Dynamics, EMC and Antennae, Infrastructure)
  • Test Programme Managers
  • Quality Assurance Function
  • Customers at bid and when under contract stages (as technical function, under the direction of the Principal Test Engineer)
  • Safety Function within RAL Space.

Person Specification


  • Demonstration of technical competence in a related field
  • Ability to support required day/night shifts and weekends 
  • Demonstrable commitment to safe, clean and orderly working 
  • Demonstrated ability to work with test hardware, tools and workshop equipment 
  • Ability to follow written procedures. 


  • Broad technical understanding of test techniques including the typical technologies used in operation 
  • Hands on test and production/test facility or laboratory experience 
  • Technical understanding of the technologies used in the specific testing environment
  • Testing operational experience in a related field 
  • Ability to operate thermal cycling chambers and thermal vacuum chambers 
  • Knowledge and experience in thermal data acquisition setup 
  • Knowledge and experience in leak testing, vacuum and cryogenics 
  • Knowledge and experience in using QCMs and RGAs
  • Experience working with cleanrooms 
  • Ability to utilize test instrumentation and control components: pressure transducers, thermocouples, RTDs, flow meters, relays, solenoid valves, etc. 
  • Ability to utilize power supplies, digital volt meters, data loggers, oscilloscopes, counters, and stepper motor controllers 
  • Experience working with a quality management system (e.g. ISO 9001 or EN9100) 
  • Experience of working under defined quality assurance practices. Direct experience of ECSS-Q-ST-20-07C would be a significant advantage.