A test model of ESA’s exoplanet-watching Cheops satellite being placed in an acoustic chamber in Europe’s largest spacecraft testing centre, helping to ensure the flight version can endure the extreme conditions of a rocket launch.
The Characterising ExOPlanet Satellite is ESA’s first small science mission. Selected in October 2012, it will track the crossings of known planets across the face of their parent stars, to make detailed deductions of their size and composition. The telescope will detect tiny shifts in stellar brightness with ultra-high precision.
Once the tests are completed, this ‘structural qualification model’ will be reconfigured as the actual satellite, helping to meet a tight development schedule that is aiming for launch readiness at the end of 2017 and a shared launch opportunity in the first half of 2018.
Cheops is seen here being moved into ESA’s Large European Acoustic Facility, capable of subjecting satellites to the same noise as a rocket produces as it takes off and flies through the atmosphere.
The chamber is an integral part of ESA’s ESTEC test centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, a collection of spaceflight simulation facilities under a single roof.
One wall of the chamber is embedded with a set of enormous sound horns. Nitrogen shot through the horns can produce a range of noise up to more than 154 decibels, like standing close to multiple jets taking off.