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ESA’s Large Space Simulator

© ESA – G. Schoonewille, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO, Id 382542

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 metre-high and 10 metre-diameter chamber is cavernous enough to accommodate an upended double decker bus, it has been reported.

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 time as the internal walls are pumped full of -190°C liquid nitrogen, together recreating the extreme thermal conditions prevailing in orbit.