Recruiting for UKRI and UK SBS

Graduate Spacecraft Thermal Engineer

Early Careers
210000VT Requisition #


Science and Technology Facilities Council


RAL Space, based at STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory ( (RAL), carries out an exciting range of world-class space research and technology development. We work closely with organisations like ESA and NASA and have had significant involvement in over 200 space missions. We are at the forefront of UK space research.

The Thermal Engineering Group within RAL Space is responsible for the design, development and testing of spacecraft scientific payloads, ground-based space instruments and calibration equipment. The group also manages a facility for the design and production of the Multi-layer Insulation used on spacecraft.

Our day-to-day work ranges from studies for future missions through to the design and testing of high-profile instruments, such as the Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI) on the NASA James Webb Space Telescope observatory. The thermal challenge for MIRI is to cool its detectors to a chilly 6 K (-267 °C)! At the other extreme, we have designed and built the SPICE instrument for ESA’s Solar Orbiter, which must survive and work in a very hot orbit close to the surface of the Sun. 

Summary of Key Duties & Responsibilities:

  • To use sound mechanical engineering principles to develop thermal control systems, from initial conceptual designs through to in-depth design specification and hardware assembly.
  • To perform computer-based analysis (using software such as ESATAN-TMS and Systema Thermica) and hand calculations to predict and verify the thermal performance of space hardware, and as tools to optimise their thermal control systems.
  • To contribute to thermal testing, which can include designing and commissioning the test configuration, preparing test procedures, managing the day-to-day test activities and producing test reports.
  • To work closely with other engineering fields and groups, both at RAL and at other world leading national/international organisations. Some travel in the UK and abroad is possible.
  • To produce well-written documents (such as design reports and test specifications) and communicate information effectively to both professional and non-expert audiences. 

In order to apply for the role you must have


  • Obtained first degree bachelors or Integrated Masters, (not doctorate) in a relevant subject in either 2020, 2021 or be due to receive it in 2022 
  • Expected or have achieved a 2:1 or above 
  • The right to live and work in the UK 
  • A-Levels in Mathematics and Physics at a minimum of grade C, or an equivalent qualification 
  • Clear interest and enthusiasm for the post and space thermal engineering 
  • Presents and communicates information clearly 
  • Understanding of heat transfer principles 
  • Appreciation and understanding of spacecraft thermal control 
  • Broad engineering knowledge 
  • Understanding of technical drawings 
  • Can demonstrate good team working capabilities 


  • Space engineering qualification or spacecraft specific modules as part of qualification 
  • Use of thermal analysis software 
  • Computer programming experience 
  • Hands-on practical skills (e.g. workshop experience, parts assembly or testing) 
  • General space thermal/systems engineering knowledge 
  • Ability to travel in the UK and abroad (including overnight absences) 

We reserve the right to close the advert early if we receive a high volume of applications, and so encourage early applications.

About The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) 

The STFC is a world-leading multi-disciplinary science organisation where curiosity, blue-skies thinking meets practical, application-led science and engineering. Our goal is to deliver economic, societal, scientific and international benefits to the UK and its people – and more broadly to the world. 

As one of Europe’s largest research organisations, we’re trusted to support, enable and undertake ground-breaking projects in an outstanding diversity of fields. Through world-class facilities and people, we’re driving progressive advances in science, engineering, computing and technology. Our research seeks to understand the Universe from the largest astronomical scales to the tiniest constituents of matter, yet creates impact on a very tangible, human scale. 

For more information about STFC please visit 

You can also visit our careers site 

About UK Research Innovation (UKRI) 

UKRI is an organisation that brings together the seven disciplinary research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Together, we build an independent organisation with a strong voice and vision ensuring the UK maintains its world-leading position in research and innovation. 

Supporting some of the world’s most exciting and challenging research projects, we develop and operate some of the most remarkable scientific facilities in the world. We are pushing the frontiers of human knowledge through fundamental research and delivering benefits for UK society and the economy through world-class research, skills and business-led innovation. 

More information can be found at  

How we support EDI in the workforce 

At UKRI, we believe that everyone has a right to be treated with dignity and respect, and to be provided with equal opportunities to thrive and succeed in an environment that enables them to do so. We also value diversity of thought and experience within inclusive groups, organisations and the wider community. For further information, please visit ‘How we support EDI in the workforce’

Disability Confident Employer

As users of the disability confident scheme, we guarantee to interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria for the vacancy/ies. We will ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodation to participate in the job application or interview process, to perform essential job functions, and to receive other benefits and privileges of employment. Please contact us to request accommodation. 

How to apply 

Online applications only preferred for this role. Please submit a CV and covering letter which clearly outlines how you fulfil the criteria specified along with your motivation for UKRI and the role. Ensure that the job reference number is included in the filename description of each document uploaded. Note that failure to address the above criteria or submit an application without a covering letter may result in the application not being considered. Assessment will only be based upon the content of your submitted covering letter and CV and not the ‘experience’ section of the application. 

UKRI seeks to ensure it creates and maintains a system of openness, fairness and inclusion – a collaborative, trusted environment, which is attractive to and accessible to everyone who is interested in developing their career with us. 

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