Image: Europe's largest vacuum chamber, the Large Space Simulator

Image: Europe’s largest vacuum chamber, the Large Space Simulator
Credit: ESA–G. Schoonewille, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

An external view of Europe's largest vacuum chamber, the Large Space Simulator, which subjects entire satellites to space-like conditions ahead of launch. This 15 m-high and 10 m-diameter chamber is cavernous enough to accommodate an upended double decker bus.

Satellites are lowered down through a top hatch. Once the top and side hatches are sealed, high-performance pumps create a vacuum a billion times lower than standard sea level atmosphere, held for weeks at a time during test runs.

A 121-segment mirror array reflects simulated sunlight into the chamber, at the same as the internal walls are pumped full of –190°C liquid nitrogen, together recreating the extreme thermal conditions prevailing in orbit.

Embedded sensors and measurement devices check whether a mission's thermal engineers have done their job well, and if the maintains an acceptable internal temperature range without buckling or other unwanted temperature-driven effects.

The simulator is an essential part of ESA's Test Centre in the Netherlands, the largest facility of its kind in Europe, providing a complete suite of equipment for all aspects of satellite testing under a single roof.


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Image: Mirror array in Large Space Simulator

Citation: Image: Europe's largest vacuum chamber, the Large Space Simulator (2017, August 17) retrieved 25 May 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2017-08-image-europe-largest-vacuum-chamber.html
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