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Pure gold pin for space testing

Although this pure gold pin is not much bigger than the tip of a pencil, it is the ‘pulsing heart’ of ESA’s Low Earth Orbit Facility, LEOX.

Part of the Agency’s Materials and Electrical Components Laboratory , based at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands, this test facility is vital for developing materials capable of withstanding the highly-erosive individual oxygen atoms prevailing at the top of the atmosphere, the result of standard oxygen molecules of the same kind found just above the ground being broken apart by powerful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. 


Dust Contamination Effects & Mitigation for Lunar & Martian Surface Mission

As well as being a possible resource, dust poses a huge risk to missions. It is one of the most important issues we need to resolve to be able to carry out long-term exploration of the Moon and Mars.

ESA testing sensor network for smart city navigation

New infrastructure added to ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands is helping to test how tomorrow’s smart cities will operate in practice.

The HANSEL system is hosted in ESTEC’s Navigation Laboratory and allows linking to sensors across the site, providing insight into the collective networking and computing needed to get a variety of ‘intelligent elements’ to mesh seamlessly together – what the brain of a future smart city might look like. 


Readying spacecraft to surf Venus’ atmosphere

ESA’s EnVision mission to Venus will perform optical, spectral and radar mapping of Earth’s sister planet. But before getting down to work the van-sized spacecraft needs to ‘aerobrake’ – lowering its orbit with thousands of passages through the planet’s hot, thick atmosphere for up to two years.

A unique ESA facility is currently testing candidate spacecraft materials to check they can safely withstand this challenging process of atmospheric surfing...

“EnVision as currently conceived cannot take place without this lengthy phase of aerobraking,” explains ESA’s EnVision study manager Thomas Voirin. 


EarthCARE taking wing

ESA’s biggest and most complex Earth Explorer mission yet is currently being tested for space at ESA’s ESTEC Test Centre, the largest satellite test facility in Europe.

The Earth Cloud Aerosol and Radiation Explorer, EarthCARE, is equipped with two main instruments, a lidar plus radar – along with a smaller radiometer and cloud imager – which are powered in turn by this mammoth 11-m-long solar wing.

EarthCARE will fill a missing dimension in current climate change modelling: the role of clouds and aerosols in reflecting incoming solar radiation back out to space and trapping infrared radiation as it is emitted from Earth’s surface. Is the net effect a heating or cooling of Earth’s atmosphere?

Developed as a joint venture between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, the front of the van-sized EarthCARE satellite hosts its quartet of instruments with its solar wing deployed from its rear.

The satellite is set to undergo seven months of testing at the 3000 sq. m ESTEC Test Centre to check every aspect of its readiness for space, starting with a recent deployment test of its solar wing from stowed configuration. 


Hera plus one: enter the CubeSat


One step closer to a CubeSat swarm mission


Where space weather starts


Young Professionals’ YPSat headed to Ariane 6