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National Satellite Test Facility

An overview of the government's investment to establish satellite test facilities in the UK and ensure it remains a world leader in space technologies.


National Satellite Test Facility

What is the National Satellite Test Facility?

There are estimated to be 3,500 to 10,000 satellites due to be launched by 2025. To capitalise on this opportunity, the UK needs a world-class central facility with access to a comprehensive set of satellite test capabilities. 

Through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, a National Satellite Test Facility will be established at the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire to provide a set of co-located facilities for the assembly, integration and testing of space payloads and satellites.

This new facility will enable UK industry to develop next-generation launch technologies and testing capabilities in order to construct satellites and deliver payloads into orbit. It will also allow us to build bigger, more technologically-advanced satellites and test these in the UK.

Ultimately the facilities will strengthen the UK’s world-leading position and allow it to bid competitively for more national and international contracts for decades to come.

What’s the investment?

Government is investing £99 million to establish the National Satellite Test Facility. The investment is being led by the RAL Space. It will provide additional facilities to those currently provided by RAL Space.

What are the opportunities?

Opportunities will be open to UK-based researchers and businesses to use the facility.

The facility will support the following activities:

Large satellite preparation and solar array deployment

Large, clean rooms and associated electrical ground support equipment will support the preparation and checking of satellites prior to and between tests. These rooms will also be used for solar array deployment tests and satellite integration.

Centre of gravity and moments of inertia

This facility can be used to measure a satellite's mass properties, as well as moments of inertia and products of inertia, to ensure that it is consistent with its design parameters.

Vibration and pyro-shock

To simulate separation of the satellite from the launch vehicle adapter, the vibration test facility will vibrate satellites in 3 axes over a frequency range of 5 to 100 Hz and acceleration levels up to 1.5 g.

Acoustic testing

The acoustic test facility will simulate the acoustic environment of the launch vehicle during launch. Noise levels inside the facility will typically reach 146 dBA with a frequency content range of 30 Hz to 10,000 Hz.

Large satellite test chamber

A bespoke 8 m diameter by 10 m long thermal vacuum chamber will simulate the vacuum and thermal conditions in space. It will consist of a cylindrical vacuum vessel lined with temperature controlled panels.

Electromagnetic compatibility and antenna test

An electrically clean environment will allow satellite electromagnetic emissions to be accurately measured. It will contain a planar near-field scanner to measure the performance of antennas used for communications between the satellite and ground stations.