Welcome to the latest feature in our ‘Day in the life’ series with Bob Dyer, Electronics Engineer.

Bob Dyer - Senior Electronics Engineer - In-Space Missions

Where did your passion for electronics engineering come from?

I had an Uncle Boyce (RIP) who worked in electronics at RAF Odiham, he was a really good mentor and an inspiration to me. At the age of about 10 he gave me a circuit diagram and told me to figure out how it worked. This really sparked my interest and enthusiasm for electronics and taught me how to research something if you did not know the answer. This was before the internet so I could not get the answers quickly but it taught me how to be inquisitive and to work things out until I found a solution.

How did you become and Electronics Engineer?

After leaving school I spent 4 years as an Electronics Apprentice at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough where I was working on ejector seats and building an 8 channel data recorder. This gave me a really good introduction and grounding in electronics.

After this I worked at Torch Computers Ltd in Cambridge where I was doing repairs and diagnostics for around three years. I had several electronics jobs after this until I saw a job in Electronics Weekly for Surrey Satellites Technology Ltd which I applied for. Having an amateur radio licence helped me to secure this post. During my time here I worked on ground stations, building, installing and maintaining them all around the world. I will never forget working in Germany at -30 degrees centigrade while I was doing antenna maintenance, I could manage about 20 minutes being outside and then 10 minutes inside to warm up again and I worked like this throughout the day until I got the job done! This job took me to Canada, Africa, Europe and around the UK and of course we always got the best views while standing with the antenna.

What are you proud of that you have worked on that has helped us back on earth?

My work in the space sector has always been fascinating and makes me proud, especially knowing that the ground stations I worked on were for Earth Observation satellites which have been used for disaster monitoring constellations and for detecting floods and fires throughout the world.

What enjoy most about being an Electronics Engineer?

Diversity! You are always thinking about new things, there is so much variety, no two days are the same, you are often working on new projects that are exciting and come with their own challenges, this always takes me back to my Uncle’s advice and encouragement, and I remember that you have always got to think of new ways to find a solution to a problem.

What is a typical week like?

It is an intense job, you get an idea from someone, and it is my job to make that idea into reality. I work alongside all the other engineers here, together we form a whole. I work out where faults could be, where they could happen, where space will affect the system due to radiation, vibration, temperature, magnetic forces, vacuum, all these things must be considered on a project. This makes the job both challenging and enjoyable for anyone who enjoys a challenge.

Are there any particular challenges?

The radiation in space is the biggest challenge. We never know when an item could fail so a large part of my job is trying to work out how to cope with an item failing. The equipment we work on must last for 5 years with zero maintenance, in an incredibly harsh environment with pressures and temperatures. We must work out how we’re going to keep the mission functioning in the event of a failure. It’s not like we can pop up to the spacecraft to replace any parts, or service it.

All of this takes a particular skill set and a lot of experience but realistically it goes back to the beginning when my Uncle sparked my interest some 40 years ago, the same questions still apply, What if? How does this work? How could it not work should something happen? All these questions have to be looked at and answered. For this job it is important to have an analytical approach. It goes back to my childhood where I was taking things apart and working out how they go back together again. Thankfully, I don’t have parts left over these days.

What do you like about working at ISML?

The friendly relaxed working environment. You are given virtually free reign to do what is necessary, you are trusted to get on with the job in hand and respected that you will do this with whatever it takes to get the job done. You need a strong work ethic, but because they believe in you here, it makes it so worthwhile. I have been in the space industry for over 15 years now so I can happily get on and do my own work and I like the fact that you are given the flexibility to get on with new ideas being encouraged when acted upon with all due caution.

Most spacecraft have space for some new untested equipment, where if it fails it’s no real issue. This means we have the latitude to put on equipment that is new and unique without any risk to the true mission. If it proves itself to be workable it has heritage to be used again. This is one of the real perks of the job.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love motorbikes, racing and renovating them. Currently I am keen on drag racing and I have built my own motorcycle for this. I am at the ‘let’s have a laugh’ level, it is fun and you can take it as seriously as you like. I’m enjoying the challenge of converting a 40-year old commuter motorbike into a drag bike!

Article  by In-Space Missions
Date: 26th April 2022