National Satellite Test Facility

Artist's impression of the National Satellite Test Facility

Artist's impression of the National Satellite Test Facility. Credit: IBI Group.

The National Satellite Test Facility (NSTF) will support the assembly, integration and testing of space payloads and satellites weighing up to seven tonnes.

We are investing £99 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund into the NSTF, with an additional £6 million coming from the National Productivity Investment Fund.

The NSTF is the UK’s first comprehensive set of space test facilities at this scale, and will enable UK industry to build bigger, more technologically advanced satellites and test them in the UK. It will be run by UKRI’s expert space hub, RAL Space.

Find out more

The facility will be available on a commercial basis to all space organisations based in the UK and internationally.

For more information about how the facility could meet your testing requirements, please contact: ralspaceenquiries@stfc.ac.uk.

Facility activities

The facility will host the following activities:

Large satellite preparation and solar array deployment

Large clean rooms and associated electrical and mechanical ground support equipment will support the preparation and checking of satellites before 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 design parameters.

Vibration and pyro-shock

To simulate the stresses of a launch sequence, the vibration test facility will vibrate satellites in three axes over a frequency range of 5-100Hz and acceleration levels up to 1.5g. The pyro-shock tests simulate separation of the satellite from the launch vehicle adapter.

Acoustic testing

This test facility will simulate the acoustic environment inside the delivery rocket during the initial seconds of a launch sequence. Noise levels inside the facility will typically reach 146dBA with a frequency content range of 30-10,000Hz.

Large space test chamber

A bespoke 7m diameter by 12m 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.

Last updated: 24 May 2021

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