Building work is nearing completion on the UK’s National Satellite Test Facility. This new facility will offer complete satellite testing for spacecraft up to 7 tonnes under one roof for the first time in the UK.
Building work began in 2019 and has continued throughout the pandemic. With the structure and final fix now all but complete, work is progressing to install and fit out the testing equipment in the building.
The NSTF will offer complete testing including EMC, AMC, thermal vacuum, vibration, acoustic, shock, moments of inertia and centre of gravity testing all at a minimum of ISO 8. It is the latest in a wider set of facilities offered by RAL Space, part of the UK government’s Science and Technology Facilities Council, which will be available on a commercial basis.
The building has been designed as an integrated facility. Spacecraft manufacturers have been involved in every stage of the planning, to make sure the facility works for them.
Two test campaigns can be run simultaneously with the building set around a central hub to ensure that the satellites can be moved seamlessly through the different tests within over 2,500m² of clean space.
All of the equipment is on a single floor to ensure safe and speedy movement of equipment through the building. This includes two 222 kN thrust shakers which have been installed in a basement to ensure the working surface is aligned with the floor. The shakers will test the satellite in three axes over a frequency range of 5 to 150 Hz and acceleration levels up to 1.5 g.
The 7m diameter by 12m thermal vacuum chamber was one of the first items to arrive onsite in June 2020. The building has since been completed around the chamber and work is ongoing to install the shrouding which will have 10 thermal zones, allowing 95 K to 400 K at 1 K/min and a base pressure <1E-5 mbar.
Commissioning will be completed early in 2023 when RAL Space will open the doors of the NSTF to the satellite manufacturing community.