RAL Space insulation protecting the mission monitoring the Earth
24 Mar 2022



RAL Space has designed and supplied around 100 thermal blankets to be wrapped around the German space agency’s (DLR) Environmental Mapping and Analysis Programme (EnMAP) satellite which will launch from the Kennedy Space Centre, USA in April.

EnMAP spacecraft undergoing testing.

​​EnMAP spacecraft undergoing testing. ​​

Credit: OHB System AG​.

​EnMAP will collect hyperspectral images of the Earth's surface, taking pictures in over 200 'colours' in order to monitor the health of our planet. It will provide vital information about the status of different ecosystems and their response to natural or man-made changes in the environment, helping make sense of the impacts of climate change and the measures being put in place to mitigate its effects.

The spacecraft and it's Earth monitoring instrument payload will have to withstand and operate correctly in the harsh environment of space. The thermal blankets, known as single- or multi-layer insulation depending on their thickness, provided by RAL Space, play an important role in both protecting the equipment from the harsh thermal environment of space and providing the thermal stability for the payload.

Dr Bryan Shaughnessy, Thermal Engineering Group Leader at RAL Space said:

“At the start of 2020, just before the pandemic escalated, we fitted single layer insulation to the complex geometry of the hyperspectral imager instrument. Since then and despite the challenges of Covid, we have manufactured around 70 specialist multi-layer insulation blankets. It has taken hundreds of hours of work from our specialist multilayer insulation engineers and technicians to design and manufacture the blankets. It's fantastic to see them fitted to EnMAP and we're looking forward to launch."

The spacecraft has been built by OHB in Munich for the German space agency DLR. Each blanket has a unique shape to fit perfectly to the satellite. RAL Space finalised the fit of the blankets before the spacecraft was shipped to the USA. The spacecraft is now being prepared for launch on a Falcon 9 rocket.

A piece of MLI in the clean room at RAL Space.

A piece of MLI in the clean room at RAL Space.
Credit: STFC RAL Space.

Find out more about the EnMAP mission from DLR.​.

RAL Space has provided:

  • Multi-layer insulation for the outer surface of the spacecraft and the solar panel (to protect the spacecraft from the harsh thermal environment of space)
  • Multi-layer insulation for the battery and propulsion system inside the spacecraft
  • Single-layer insulation for the hyperspectral imager instrument that sits inside the spacecraft (part of the system that provides the precise thermal control required for the instrument)
  • Specialist thermal radiator tapes (they reject waste heat and also reflect the sun light to stop equipment getting too hot)