Home » Mace hands over £116m satellite testing facility in UK first

Mace hands over £116m satellite testing facility in UK first

by Mark Cantrell
Mace has handed over £116m National Satellite Test Facility located at the heart of the space cluster at Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire

Mace has officially handed over the UK’s first facility for the comprehensive testing of spacecraft and satellites of up to seven tonnes in weight.

The £116m National Satellite Test Facility (NSTF) is located at the heart of the space cluster at Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire.

It provides a comprehensive set of co-located facilities for the assembly, integration and testing of satellites.

Mace worked closely with the Science & Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) client team, and space experts to develop the design from concept to completion.

Terry Spraggett, managing director for public sector construction at Mace, said: “It has been a truly inspiring journey to work on such a pioneering project together with some of the UK’s brightest minds.

“To build this highly complex project the client challenged us to bring together technologies and innovations to deliver a world-class facility, that will cement the UK’s leading position in space technologies.”

Constructed around the UK’s largest vacuum test chamber, satellites the size of a double decker bus will be exposed to extremes of temperatures using electrically-heated and nitrogen-cooled shroud panels to achieve a temperature range simulating the conditions of outer space.

Meanwhile, a vibration chamber installed on a highly calibrated suspension system will replicate the conditions of a rocket launch, alongside an electromagnetic compatibility anechoic chamber to test electronic devices for both radiated and conducted radio frequency emissions.

The chamber’s interiors are encased in a highly absorbent fire resistant blue spiky foam that reduces oxygen levels. The building’s light weight steel frame with CLT floor slabs minimises building loads and foundation requirements.

NSTF will be operated by STFC’s RAL Space, the UK’s national space laboratory for delivering world-class space and ground-based space projects. The NSTF will enable UK businesses to bid competitively for new contracts and remain a world leader in space technologies.

The testing facility is not the only high-tech project Mace has worked with through the Southern Construction Framework. Since 2017, its work on cutting-edge research and science facilities has included, on STFC’s Harwell campus in Oxfordshire, the Rosalind Franklin Institute, the National Satellite Test Facility, the Extreme Photonics Applications Centre, and Vulcan 20:20.

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