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Top UK space technology lab RAL Space appoints new Director

The UK’s leading space laboratory, RAL Space, has appointed a new director to advance it’s ambitious programme of space science and technology development.

Dr Sarah Beardsley

Dr Alan Partridge, Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Executive Director for Large Scale Facilities and Head of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Sarah Beardsley as the new Director of RAL Space.


As head of the UK’s national space laboratory, Sarah will have an important role to play in supporting the delivery of the UK’s National Space Strategy as well as shaping the department’s future priorities and plans.


Sarah, who is currently Head of Continuous Improvement at RAL Space, will be taking over from Professor Chris Mutlow when he steps down at the end of July 2022. Prior to her current role, Sarah served as the Head of the Space Engineering and Technology Division within RAL Space for 8 years.

Dr Alan Partridge said: “Congratulations to Sarah on her appointment. This is an exciting time for RAL Space and the wider space sector and Sarah is committed to working with her team to ensure that RAL Space continues to deliver cutting edge science and technology, as well as supporting the delivery of the National Space Strategy alongside our key partners. She brings a wealth of experience across science and engineering disciplines, and I am looking forward to seeing RAL Space continue to flourish both in the UK and internationally.

“Chris deserves huge thanks for his leadership of RAL Space. He and the team have supported the successful delivery of a wide range of national and international missions and programmes, including the recent commissioning of the Mid-InfraRed Instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope, and at the same time he has led the way in developing the next generation of engineers and technicians needed to support the UK’s space and environmental science communities.”

Advancing understanding of space and our environment

RAL Space conducts and enables scientific research in disciplines such as climate science, solar physics and astronomy. With over 60 years’ experience in space programmes, RAL Space run some of the UK’s most advanced space and science facilities for UK industry and academia.

Professor Chris Mutlow said: “I have worked closely with Sarah for many years and am delighted that she will be taking over leadership of RAL Space. I have had the pleasure of leading the department through many successes, including establishment of the National Satellite Test Facility, the launch of numerous inspiring space missions, recently including the Webb Telescope and the growth of the department, the sector, and our ambition. I have confidence in Sarah’s ability to steer RAL Space into the next exciting phase.”


Extensive experience

Sarah has extensive experience of the science and engineering challenges faced by RAL Space. As the Head of the Space Engineering and Technology Division Sarah oversaw the engineers, technicians and project managers underpinning many of the hardware projects across the department.


Prior to this she worked as an instrument scientist on RAL Space’s first mission to the Moon and a project manager on various high-profile missions. Sarah has been active in defining the UK and European strategies for solar system science, sitting on several national and international advisory panels for the community.


Dr Sarah Beardsley said: “It is a privilege to be given the opportunity to lead RAL Space in these exciting times for the space sector. I am looking forward to working together with colleagues and the wider space community to collaboratively deliver impact and inspiration to create a better world.”


Bringing together the UK space community

Over the coming years RAL Space is leading the consortium for the European Space Agency’s Ariel exoplanet mission and the commissioning of the National Satellite Test Facility, which will help get spacecraft ready for launch and enable businesses to build bigger, more technologically advanced satellites. The department are also pioneering new technologies on board smaller, faster, and cheaper missions such as the secure communications satellite Speqtre and the ESP-MACCS climate monitoring mission.


Sarah is passionate about early careers development and is a proactive supporter of both graduate and apprentice development, sitting on STFC governance boards for both. Sarah will be working with Chris over the next few weeks before formally taking up the role on 22 August 2022.

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