External Laboratories (Mechanical)

ESA maintains a Europe-wide network of specialized laboratories supplementing the technical services and competence provided by the ESTEC laboratories and the ESTEC Test Centre.

These specialist centres of excellence provide important benefits to European space programmes and industrial competitiveness, and continued access to these facilities is essential for Europe's space sector.

The following facilities are maintained in the area of mechanical engineering:

Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELISSA) Laboratory at University of Barcelona (ES) – This unique facility supported by a pan-European research network develops and tests long duration life support systems based around biological organisms. Used by ESA for R&D activities.

EMI Hypervelocity Impacts Test Facility at Fraunhofer Ernst Mach Institute, Freiburg (DE) – This facility performs impact test activities to evaluate micrometeoroid and debris protection systems (MMDS) in support of projects including ESA's Columbus module and Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), as well as space debris-related R&D.

Pyrotechnic Laboratory at CNES, Toulouse (FR) – The only European facility of its kind, used for the development and testing of onboard pyrotechnic devices ('pyros').

European Space Tribology Laboratory (ESTL) at ESR Technology Ltd (UK) – An independent test centre for space mechanisms and interacting surfaces.

European Plasma Test Facilities, consisting of the SCIROCCO facility at CIRA in Capua (IT) and the Van Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics (KVI) in Brussels (BE) – Able to generate hypersonic plasma arcs, these facilities are used for the design and testing of thermal protection systems (TPS) enabling atmospheric re-entry vehicles, reusable launchers and planetary landing and return missions.

European High Enthalpy Test Facilities, consisting of a network of facilities at ONERA Toulouse (FR) and F4, DLR High Enthalpy Goettingen Shock Tunnel (HEG) (DE) – These facilities can accelerate air to rates of up to seven kilometres per second, testing the aerothermodynamic behaviour of spacecraft within planetary atmospheres.

Last update: 17 September 2009

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