Located on the UK Space Gateway, Harwell Campus, the ESA-RAL Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory provides expertise and test services to investigate and optimise advanced materials and manufacturing processes in support of cutting-edge research and development. The facility is physically located within the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL).
The laboratory takes in samples of material destined for future space projects and puts them through various tests. A wide range of material properties and characteristics can be investigated in order to provide recommendations on how the materials can best be applied or improved before they can be considered for further development and used in a fully-fledged space mission. It has access to a metal-based 3D printer and is equipped with a suite of powerful microscopes, an X-ray CT machine and a range of furnaces. Mechanical testing such as tensile and micro hardness testing is also performed.
The lab is a gateway to accessing some of the extensive on-site testing facilities based on Harwell Campus, such as STFC's ISIS Neutron Source, the Diamond Light Source synchrotron and the UK's Central Laser Facility.