Welcome to the latest feature in our ‘Day in the life’ series with Brian Kibler Spacecraft Production Lead.
Tell me about yourself and how you arrived at In-Space
”I started my career training as an Apprentice straight after leaving school at Marconi Defence Systems in Portsmouth. Initially I worked on torpedoes where I learnt how to do wiring. I then changed roles and gained further experience working on video phones and inflight entertainment systems. After three years I transferred to Matra Marconi Space where I worked in the manufacturing department on Skynet 4 spacecraft in a contract position for 4 years before moving to Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd to work on the U0SAT 12 platform.
Starting out as a contractor at Surrey I then progressed through to the Assembly, Integration and Test department to become the Electrical/Mechanical Lead before joining In-Space Missions Ltd as the Spacecraft Production Lead.
Was space something you were interested in growing up?
”When I was younger, I did not consider a career in space, I liked the idea of becoming a Zoo Keeper! If I had not joined Marconi I might have gone down the route of becoming a mechanic as I have always enjoyed tinkering with cars.
What does a spacecraft production lead do?
”I look after the actual building of the space craft and assist with the Thermal Vacuum Testing (TVAC) which simulates the conditions found in outer space which imposes extreme requirements on all of the components, from the test subject inside the thermal vacuum chamber through to the measuring installations outside. Whole satellites or space components are tested in the TVAC where they are exposed to the extreme pressures of space including extreme temperature variations to demonstrate that the craft will operate in space.
I also assist with the setting up of Vibe (Vibration testing) this simulates the vibration and forces that are put on the spacecraft during launch to prove that the craft will survive this first part of the Mission.
Another important aspect of my job is Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) and Radio Frequency (RF) testing. Electronic and magnetic emissions are tested to see what electro-magnetic “noise” a device generates whilst in operation. Sensitive calibration equipment checks what electronic frequency the device may be emanating to ensure there is no interference between the different payloads on the craft (self-susceptibility) or with other devices being used by the launch providers and on the launch site (radiated emissions).
How would you describe a typical workday?
”It varies day to day. I use my electrical engineering skills to analyse the electrical needs for the project, calculating current requirements and incorporating this data into the harness design on the computer. Developing wiring harnesses involves quite a bit of my time. This involves organising sets of wires, terminals and connectors that run throughout the entire spacecraft and transmit information and electric power. This is a critical role “connecting” a variety of components for the spacecraft to operate and communicate successfully.
Other days I am working in the lab on the mechanical assemblies, bolting units together and finalising the end result of the spacecraft build, adding thermal tape, if necessary on the outside of the craft, then taking the craft to other venues for Vibe, TVAC, and EMC testing.
I have a team who work alongside me, Lorna Wilkins and Louis Parisi. Lorna works on the manufacturing of the PCB’s soldering components onto the boards, some of the wiring and making up connectors and Louis is learning a lot of the sub system testing and helps me with the assembly of the craft and supporting the TVAC campaigns.
We all interact with the System Engineers supporting them with their testing and test procedures.
What are your greatest highlights at work?
”I have worked on a range of spacecraft during my career, some of the highlights include working on the Galileo constellation and supporting clients all over the globe including leading and supporting launch campaigns in Russia, India and the US across a variety of launch vehicles and of course the recent Faraday Phoenix successful launch here at ISML.
What do you enjoy most about working at In-Space?
”I enjoy the company of the people on my team and the wider ISML employees, they are a great group to work with. We enjoy what we do and work hard at the same time. I like the satisfaction of building the craft up and the mechanical side of things then seeing the finished product and successful launch, it gives me a really big sense of achievement.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
”I like spending time with family, I love gardening, taking the dogs for a walk and sitting in a pub garden on a Saturday afternoon with my family.
Article by In-Space Missions
Date: 12th November 2021