At approximately 3000 sq. m in area, ESA’s ESTEC Test Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, is already the largest satellite testing establishment in Europe. Now it has grown even bigger, with the formal opening of a new 350 sq. m environmentally-controlled cleanroom beside it.

Formally known as the ‘FV’ cleanroom, it was declared open with a formal ribbon cutting by Marco Massaro, Head of ESA’s Estates and Facilities Management Division; Paulien van Essen, Regional Manager of lead builder Heijmans and Torben Henriksen, Head of ESTEC and ESA Director of Technology, Engineering and Quality.

“This is the most beautiful cleanroom we have on site,” commented Director Henriksen. “In our Test Centre there has been a shortage of cleanrooms for quite some time, especially with some programmes being based here for long durations – BepiColombo was here for some time, along with the Galileo satellites. So the need for expansion was clear.

“To start with an engineering model of the Smile satellite from China will soon be housed here, as well as several Galileo satellites. The construction process took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, so it was a long journey to get to this point, but I’d like to thank Heijmans for their diligent work.”

Most of the time the ESTEC Test Centre has multiple test items within its walls simultaneously. Complex planning and traffic management are necessary to ensure every project get access to the facility they need at the time they need it. So sufficient room is needed to accommodate the different satellites and allow their movement between test facilities.

The FV clean room will also host the ESTEC Test Centre’s sensitive micro-vibration measurement facilities, which are used to characterise the very low vibration generated by mechanisms mounted aboard satellites, made possible by a large seismic block beneath the building.

The next step will be to construct a corridor linking the FV cleanroom with the environmentally controlled main Test Centre building.

ESA-G. Porter