Expanding ESTEC’s Test Centre

The ESTEC Test Centre is expanding. A new 350 sq. m cleanroom is being added to the Netherlands-based site, already Europe’s largest facility for satellite testing.

Image credit: ESA

To begin with, 110 foundation piles have been inserted into the sandy soil, ranging in depth from 10 to 17 m. Now ground is being excavated to dig a connecting tunnel bringing power, data, heating and cooling infrastructure to the new cleanroom.

The ESTEC Test Centre is a 3000 sq. m environmentally-controlled complex nestled in dunes along the Dutch coast, filled with test equipment to simulate all aspects of spaceflight. It is part of ESA’s main technical centre, but is maintained and operated on a commercial basis on the Agency’s behalf by private company European Test Services (ETS) B.V.

Most of the time the ESTEC Test Centre has several 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 required needs to accommodate the different programmes and allow their movement between test facilities.

“The new clean room will offer extra space to host satellites as they come on site,” explains Gaetan Piret, overseeing the Test Centre. “It will also host our sensitive micro-vibration measurement facilities, used to characterise the very low vibration generated by mechanisms mounted aboard satellites.”

The building work, led by Dutch company Heijmans, is intended to have as little impact on the rest of the site as possible, allowing the rest of the Test Centre to continue nominal operations.

“For this reason we rejected hammering in the piles,” explains Jan Trautmann of ESA Facilities Management, managing the construction project. “Instead ‘cast in place’ piles were used, involving drilling deep holes, then lowering a steel reinforcement and filling them with concrete. This method generates much less noise and vibration.”

Planned to take account of current COVID-19 restrictions, the aim is to complete the new building by next summer, which will then be linked via large corridor to the current building.

Source: ESA