Prince Willem Alexander opens new ESTEC labs

Prince Willem Alexander during the speach given by ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain
9 April 2008

Dutch Crown Prince Willem Alexander yesterday officially opened the new laboratory building at ESA's space research and technology centre, ESTEC, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. The Prince and other guests were impressed with the state-of-the-art facilities, including the Propulsion Lab and the Concurrent Design Facility.

In the presence of 150 dignitaries from all ESA Member States, Prince Willem Alexander launched an Ariane rocket constructed from balloons in 'the mall', the gallery which links together all the laboratories and their associated offices. Earlier Dutch minister of Economic Affairs Maria van der Hoeven and ESA Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain spoke about the importance of ESTEC for the Netherlands, for Europe and for European success in space.

European cooperation

Opening of the new laboratory building at ESTEC
Opening of the new laboratory building at ESA's space research and technology centre, ESTEC

Exactly forty years ago the Prince's mother, then Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix, officially opened ESA's technical centre in Noordwijk. At that time, the opening was testimony to the faith put in the spaceflight pioneers of the 1960s and in European cooperation on an international space stage. This faith has been rewarded: ESTEC has since played a leading role in eighty successful spaceflight projects.

“ESTEC has to keep developing,” said Michel Courtois, Director of ESTEC, "These laboratories are a drastic improvement compared to the old ones. Engineers and scientists from all over Europe come together here to work on the design of space missions and new technologies. Now they can do so using the newest techniques and methods."

Alta's hall effect thruster in Propulsion Lab
HRH Prince Willem Alexander looks at the Alta’s hall effect thruster in the Propulsion Lab

Minister Van der Hoeven also praised the new facilities: "You can see immediately the added value of the CDF. To work here means you broaden your horizons, all the different disciplines come together to develop new technologies. If Europe wants to remain at the forefront of developments in space, then we have to look to the future. That is exactly what is happening here at ESTEC."

21st century

It has taken five years to design and build the new laboratories. The scientists and engineers were involved right from the start to ensure the building design is as functional as possible.

Prins Willem Alexander looks at 3D screen in CDF
Prince Willem Alexander looks at the 3D screen in the Concurrent Design Facility

The result is an efficient, but also inspiring workplace, said Head of Site Management Paul Cannock: "Besides the highest level of health and safety standards, the building also has a big 'wow' factor, especially in the colourful central gallery, the mall. It is quite unlike our older buildings. With this new building ESTEC has really arrived in the 21st century."

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