UK takes delivery of giant satellite test chamber

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Satellite manufacturers will be able to test their spacecraft in the UK following the delivery of a 98 tonnes test chamber to the National Satellite Test Facility in Oxfordshire. 

satellite test chamber
Harwell RAL Space team with the Large Space Test Chamber (Image: STFC RAL Space)

Once assembled, the 16m long Large Space Test Chamber (LSTC) will use nitrogen cooled shroud panels to achieve temperatures ranging from -180oC to +100oC so that satellites can be tested for a range of space missions.

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The satellite test chamber completed its journey from the manufacturers Angelantoni Test Technologies Srl based in Massa Martana, Italy, to be installed at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire. A team of commissioning engineers will travel from Italy to Harwell to complete the installation and testing of the vacuum vessel later in the year.

In a statement, Prof Chris Mutlow, Director of RAL Space said: “This has been an incredible feat of engineering and logistics. The installation of a facility of this scale is at the best of times fraught with complexities but this has been made even more challenging because of coronavirus.

"I am delighted that the chamber has completed its epic 5800km journey and is now safely in position in the National Satellite Test Facility where it will offer a new capability to the space community as part of the only set of co-located space test facilities at this large scale in the UK.”

Delivery of a section of LSTC (Image: STFC RAL Space)

The 98 tonnes satellite test chamber was transported in sections on six lorries accompanied by six police outriders and five support vehicles.

Each of the 8m diameter sections then had to be lifted into place and positioned in order to be sealed later in the year. The final walls of the building will now be constructed around the satellite test chamber.

Alongside the chamber, the National Satellite Test Facility will also offer vibration and pyro-shock equipment, electromagnetic compatibility, and antenna measurement system and acoustic testing.

Construction will be complete in 2021 and operational from 2022. It builds on the existing suite of environmental test facilities and expertise at STFC’s RAL Space which include a further 10 space test chambers ranging from 1m in diameter to 5m diameter.