The complex testing of space technology carried out at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands requires precisely-maintained environmental control.

This industrial chiller seen here, connected to black-insulated piping provides cold water throughout ESTEC’s Test Centre and laboratories, helping to maintain clean rooms and key test equipment at optimal temperatures.

“Commissioned in 2017, this installation is our most energy efficient chiller, with a cooling capacity of about 1.2 megawatts – or roughly 800 times the capacity of a standard household fridge,” explains mechanical projects engineer Christophe Huysmans of ESTEC’s Estates and Facility Management Department.

“It makes use of refrigerant R1234ze, which is one of the most environmentally sustainable gases available, commonly used for these type of applications. Covering around one fifth of ESTEC’s total demand, the machine is equipped with state of the art energy optimising systems – such as variable speed drives and stepless capacity regulation between 10-100% – and allows for a wide temperature range, from 6°C in summertime and up to 12°C in winter.”

Walerij Fischer, heading ESTEC’s Infrastructure Operations Section, adds: “Such chilled water production has always been part of ESTEC’s infrastructure, being much more environmentally friendly than multiple air conditioning systems located across the site with regular renovation and upgrades to keep the system operating as efficiently as possible.”

The Department is currently planning ESTEC’s first heat pump installation to produce cooling energy while simultaneously recycling waste heat, allowing the establishment to reduce its natural gas consumption significantly.

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