The UK’s space industry has received a major piece of new equipment to help get larger, more complex satellites ready for launch.

A 16m long space test chamber, amongst the giants of Europe, has been installed in the UK’s National Satellite Test Facility.

  • ​​​​​​The Large Space Test Chamber will test spacecraft for the harsh conditions of space including extreme temperatures from -180°C to +100°C
  • ​It has been installed in the National Satellite Test Facility​, a UK government investment to build the UK’s largest set of co-located equipment for testing spacecraft which will be opened by the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) RAL Space in 2022
  • UK and international businesses will be able to test spacecraft up to the size of a minibus as well as fleets of shoebox-size satellites supporting the growth of the UK’s £14.8 billion sector

The enormous chamber will be used by the space industry to test spacecraft up to 7 tonnes for the harsh conditions of space.

The chamber can be heated and cooled using nitrogen cooled shroud panels to achieve a temperature range of 95 Kelvin to 373 Kelvin to (-180°C to +100°C) so that satellites can be tested for missions into the chill of deep space or near to the Sun.

It will be operated by STFC’s RAL Space, and alongside other test equipment at the National Satellite Test Facility will enable UK businesses to bid competitively for new contracts and remain a world leader in space technologies.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:

“The UK is a world-leader in space technology and this impressive new chamber, backed by government funding, will significantly bolster our satellite testing capabilities. Importantly, it will ensure that our space industry has the first-class facilities they need to test large, complex spacecraft as we work towards the UK’s first satellite launch.”

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Geoffrey Roach
Geoffrey Roach
3 months ago

Up, Up and at’em… Another giant step for the U.K. going forward Out of this world…yes I know..enough!

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago

Space, initially satellites, has been one area where the UK Government as consistantly invested and it seems invested well. Why space? This has always intrigued me, given the traditional short termism of our political leadership. Space has been a long term investment project that really only got going in ’85 with the formation of the British National Space Centre. Nevertheless, it has grown considerably and steadily and now we have two Space Ports under development / planning as well. 35 years of investment – doesn’t actually fit with normal UK Government behaviour, so why space? Don’t get me wrong I… Read more »

Cam
Cam
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

The government would say they invest in more than space though. We used to be top 3 in space, sadly India, Japan, China, have all over taken us and so has the EU, Canada with their Canada arm are not doing bad either. let’s hope we can invest in maned missions one day, but from the UK? Who knows.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago
Reply to  Cam

Hi Cam, Governments would say a lot of things 🙂 As for our place in the league table the stated rationale for the move into launching was to enhance and support our satellite industry, so what might be interesting is to see where we sit in the satellite building league tables. With the move into small and micro satellites, due in part to miniaturisation of electronic components and sensors, our launch site could be well placed to cash in on niche sectors of the market. They will be small and new establishments, so perhaps with significantly lower overheads! I am… Read more »

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

I thi k until relatively recently our success has been despite Govt. fact is Thatcher saw no future in it. as equally she didn’t believe building airliners in Europe either as it couldn’t possibly compete with the US and would absorb bucket loads of Govt cash. Very short sighted as it turns out on both counts. Thankfully with some lateral thinking industry through small creative thinking companies and inspired or supported by University research saw differently and was able to take advantage of the previously unexploited gap and the changing skyscape in micro satellites where endless financial might wasn’t be… Read more »

Will
Will
3 months ago
Reply to  Cam

I believe that the UK will remain a partner in ESA after Brexit so we have skin in that game too.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago

I can see Harwell becoming our version of Cape Canaveral! Pity it’s not by the sea.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago

Hi Danielle,

I don’t think they’ll ever launch from Harwell, as you say not by the sea, but they do are another big player in the UK space scene. Amazing place, I got to visit it a couple of times in my career… Happy days.

I quick look at their Organisation List and there is a high concentration of space industry companies on the Campus. Impressive and encouraging for the future…

Cheers CR

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Fascinating CR. I’m not surprised you have been there, with RAL and others located there.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago

🙂

Dern
Dern
3 months ago

Have you seen the Skyrora plans for a containerised launch site?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Dern

No? I know very little on this subject.

Dern
Dern
3 months ago

https://www.skyrora.com/skylark-l
Scroll down and look at the same for their XL launcher, their ambition seems to be to be able to build a semi-permanent launch facility that consists largely of ISO contairers or can be packed into ISO containers and moved if needed.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Dern

Ta.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Our Huston perhaps then

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Spyinthesky

You’re right, my location was wrong. Houston more apt.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago

Just found this website: https://spaceportcornwall.com/ The main point that comes out is that they are planning to open next year! Assuming Covid-19 doesn’t push them back. Thing is Newquay is, apparently, Britiain’s newest airport with a surprisingly long runway. We visit Newquay quite often and apart from a few Dash 7’s not much uses Newquay, so given the knock from Covid-19 the Space port might actually save Newquay Airport in the short term. Another interesting fact on the site is that Goonhilly, on the Lizard peninsula, is one of the largest (Wikipedia) satellite tracking stations and is connected to undersea… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Yes CR, Goonhilly links to SeaMeWe 3, which comes ashore at Kuggar just down the road.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

And as for the Satellite Tracking Station, Goonhilly is the very reason for GCHQ Bude’s existence further north!

john
john
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Thanks for the link. I will keep a close eye on this.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Some tv programme recently mentioned that the location of the two are not unrelated. Indeed till recentry I hadn’t realised that some 3/4 of Internet traffic still goes through under sea cables let alone telephony.

Dern
Dern
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Optimistic, at the moment the only project that could realisitically look at launching from there would be Virgin’s LauncherOne, and atm I think they’re only flying out of Mojave.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago
Reply to  Dern

Hi Dern, If you look at the website and the Twitter at the bottom you will see that Virgin Orbital have signed some sort of agreement with Cornwall Spaceport and are aiming to launch in Q1 2022. So the Spaceport will need to be open by mid 2021 ish to prepare for the launch. As I said above Newquay is a new airport with long runways (surprisingly long for a small regional airport), so much of the infrastructure is already in place it seems. So yes Virgin Orbital would be the launch customer for the Spaceport but you have to… Read more »

Dern
Dern
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

I’ve seen that, however Virigin Orbital (who operates Launcher One) has no concrete plans to use anywhere outside the US at the moment, just a vague ambition to launch anywhere besides Mojave and possibly Kenned. Everywhere else seems to be an ambition or wish list.

My biggest skeptisism is I don’t see why anyone would pay to ship a Launcher One rocket to Cornwall for a launch when launch sites are much close to the production line in California.

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Newquay is not a new airport, it been in use since WW2, formally known as RAF St. Mawgan. The runway used to be one of the longest in the UK at 2,744m, but has been surpassed by most of the main airports now. Even Heathrow (2.42 miles) is longer than Boscombe (2 miles) and Elvington (1.9miles) now which were earmarked as emergency landing runways for the Shuttle.

Benjamin Rule
Benjamin Rule
3 months ago

‘as we work towards the UK’s first satellite launch.’

The first satellite launched by the UK was Prospero in 1971. Launched on a Black Arrow rocket. It’s still up there.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prospero_(satellite)

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
3 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Rule

Yeh, I noticed that. I guess ignoring history is convenient for someone’s ego 🙂

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 months ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

As seen i recent events, if history does not meet your way of thinking or gets in the way of your PR, erase it and replace it with something of your own design.

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky
3 months ago
Reply to  Benjamin Rule

Yes that did prick a nerve with me too a bit like leaving Colossus out of the history of programmable computing. Lots of high value work went into that programme far too much to simply be historically classified as bin worthy.