Image: Shaker test of 8-tonne cooling system

May 9, 2018, European Space Agency
Credit: ESA–G. Porter, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Typically ESA's shaker tables are used to replicate the take-off vibrations of a satellite-lifting rocket. The large object seen here is not a satellite at all but an 8-tonne cooling system being subjected to a simulated earthquake – while blasting a chilly wave of air towards the engineer observing the test.

Manufactured by Munters in Belgium, this mammoth 6 x 4 x 5 m cooling system is designed to remove heat from industrial-scale data centres while using just a fifth of the energy of traditional designs.

The system travelled three hours by road to ESA's Test Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, for testing to prove it can carry on running even in the midst of an with a peak ground acceleration of 1G on 3 axes – equivalent to a violent Level IX earthquake, stronger than the Fukushima earthquake of 2011.

"To export to the Japanese market we have to satisfy very stringent seismic testing requirements," says Craig MacFadyen of Munters. "We need to show the cooling system doesn't fall to pieces and maintains its functionality during different grades of earthquakes."

Testing was performed on ESA's Hydra multi-axis hydraulic shaker, the Test Centre's single most powerful shaker. See video of the testing here.

"Hydra's hydraulic actuators move an 18-tonne shaker table in all three orthogonal axes simultaneously, in a similar fashion to an aircraft flight simulator," explains Alexander Kuebler of ETS, the company operating the Test Centre for ESA.

"The motion of these actuators is overseen by a network of 36 parallel computers. The entire installation is braced by a seismic mass supported by springs and shock absorbers to prevent the resulting earthquake-strength vibrations spreading through the rest of the Test Centre. Up to 512 acceleration measurement channels can be used during testing, acquiring the maximum possible data for the customer."

Hydra has served many of Europe's largest space missions, including Envisat – at 8 tonnes the largest-ever civil Earth observation satellite – Herschel, and the Automated Transfer Vehicle, which weighed 22 tonnes at launch.

Hydra can also accommodate non-space customers when its schedule allows, such as the testing of generators for the underside of trains and an Airbus fuselage to simulate the stresses of approach and landing.

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

Explore further: Shaker test of radiator panel

Related Stories

Shaker test of radiator panel

July 21, 2016

A radiator panel designed to ensure telecommunication satellites keep their cool in space seen during testing on the most powerful electrodynamic shaker of ESA's ESTEC Test Centre.

Four Galileo satellites at ESA test centre

December 22, 2014

ESA engineers unwrapped a welcome Christmas present: the latest Galileo satellite. The navigation satellite will undergo a full checkout in Europe's largest satellite test facility to prove its readiness for space.

NASA gives the Webb Telescope a shakedown

February 13, 2017

Scientists and engineers had many challenges in designing the components of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope and then had to custom design and build ways to test it.

Image: Cool scene for MetOp-C

September 15, 2016

A perfect satellite test set-up inside ESA's vast Large Space Simulator chamber – the only thing missing is a satellite.

Image: MetOp-C payload module

January 13, 2017

The payload module of MetOp-C, Europe's latest weather satellite, is in place at ESA's technical centre in the Netherlands for rigorous testing in space-like conditions.

Recommended for you

Engineering cellular function without living cells

March 25, 2019

Genes in living cells are activated – or not – by proteins called transcription factors. The mechanisms by which these proteins activate certain genes and deactivate others play a fundamental role in many biological processes. ...

What ionized the universe?

March 25, 2019

The sparsely distributed hot gas that exists in the space between galaxies, the intergalactic medium, is ionized. The question is, how? Astronomers know that once the early universe expanded and cooled enough, hydrogen (its ...

Catalyst advance removes pollutants at low temperatures

March 25, 2019

Researchers at Washington State University, University of New Mexico, Eindhoven University of Technology, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a catalyst that can both withstand high temperatures and convert ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.