National Satellite Test Facility - handover Spring 2021
21 Nov 2017



RAL Space has been awarded £99m from the Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to develop the National Satellite Test Facility (NSTF).


​​​​​​​​​​Artists impression of the National Satellite Test Facility​​​


​The NSTF will be a major component in delivering the first wave of the UK Government's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.  This fund in part aims to address technological challenges to make the UK a world-leader in emerging and significant global markets. The UK Space Agency recently commissioned a facilities gap study, which highlighted the need for a central facility in the UK, giving access to a comprehensive set of satellite test capabilities at a single location.  The NSTF will address this need, providing a world class set of co-located facilities for the assembly, integration and testing of space payloads and satellites. The new facility will enable UK companies to develop the next generation launch technologies and testing capabilities to allow the UK to construct satellites and deliver payloads into orbit.  Access to co-located world-class facilities will enable UK industry to bid competitively for more national and international contracts and ensure the UK remains a world-leader in space technologies for decades to come.

NSTF will provide additional facilities to those currently provided by our space test facility and will enable all RAL Space staff to work together in one building.  By Spring 2022, the specialist test facilities will be operational. The NSTF will accommodate the following facilities:​ 

​Clean rooms for large satellite preparation and solar array deployment

Comprising large clean rooms and associated electrical ground support equipment area for the preparation and checkout of satellites prior to and between tests.  This will also be used for solar array deployment tests and final payload integration. 

Centre of gravity and moments of inertia

Measurement of the mass properties of satellites is an important test needed to confirm its mass and coordinates of its centre of mass. Sometimes it is also required to measure the moments of inertia and products of inertia.  This facility is used to measure a satellite's mass properties to ensure that it is consistent with its design parameters and is normally carried out before vibration testing. 

Vibration and pyro-shock

The vibration test facility will vibrate satellites in three axes over a frequency range of 5 to 150 Hz and acceleration levels up to 1.5 g. 
Two 222 kN  thrust shakers will be used to simulate the vibration of launch and test the satellite in 3 axes.  
The facility will also be able to subject large sub-assemblies to random vibration environments up to 2000Hz. 
The pyro-shock tests simulate separation of the satellite from the launch vehicle adapter.

Acoustic testing

The acoustic test facility will simulate the acoustic environment under the fairing of the launch vehicle during launch. The acoustic noise levels inside the facility will typically reach 146 dBA with a frequency content ranging from 30 Hz to 10,000 Hz. 

Large satellite test chamber

A bespoke 8m diameter x 10m long thermal vacuum chamber used to simulate the vacuum and thermal conditions in space, and consists of a large cylindrical vacuum vessel lined with temperature controlled panels. 

Electro Magnetic Compatibility (EMC) and Antenna Test

This facility will provide an electrically clean environment so that a satellite's electromagnetic emissions can be accurately measured. It will also contain a planar near-field scanner to measure the performance of antennas used for communications between the satellite and ground stations.  

For more information please contact: RAL Space Enquiries