Science and Technology Facilities Council
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UK ramps up its satellite testing capabilities with new vacuum chamber

The largest space test chamber in the UK is being installed at a premier satellite testing facility, helping to ensure the UK remains a world leader for space technology.

The £1million chamber, paid for by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, will add to the arsenal of equipment which makes the UK a global centre for testing satellites.

Once fully installed, the chamber will be used to test world-class satellites, including Sentinel 5.

Dr Brian Bowsher, Chief Executive of the Science and Technology Facilities Council, said: “This new test chamber puts the UK ahead of the game internationally when it comes to being able to test spacecraft and satellites. “We are looking forward to welcoming some of the world’s most exciting space technology to our test facilities, where they will be put into the hands of our incredibly skilled staff.

“This addition to our facilities, coupled with the expertise of our staff, illustrates what makes the UK a global leader in the space industry.”

This is the second 5m diameter by 6m long space test chamber to be installed at STFC’s RAL Space in Oxfordshire. Alongside its twin space test chamber, it is the biggest in the UK and one of the largest in Europe.

The new test chamber increases RAL Space’s capacity to meet growing demand from the space industry to test how instruments and small spacecraft work in space-like conditions. The new chamber will also help to ensure that the UK, through RAL Space, can meet demand from the country’s space sector, which is growing from strength to strength.

This capability will enable the UK space industry, which is worth more than £13billion, to win more national and international contracts for bigger and more technologically advanced satellites and reduce the need for UK companies to use test facilities located abroad.

The state-of-the-art chamber, when complete, will simulate the conditions and extreme temperatures spacecraft may have to operate in. It is capable of reaching temperatures ranging from -180 to +120 degrees Celsius while maintaining the vacuum of space. The vacuum is also situated within a specialised cleanroom environment, which is required for the preparation and installation of the items that will be tested within the facility.

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