Materials and Electrical Components Laboratories

ESA's Materials and Components Laboratories perform tests concerning a question of central importance to the European space industry: what are the best materials and techniques to manufacture spacecraft with?

What are they for?

Building for operations outside the atmosphere is no easy task. Space hardware not only has to function reliably for years on end with next to no opportunity of repair, it has to do so while tolerating vacuum conditions, wide temperature extremes, high radiation fluxes and exposure to erosive atomic oxygen – while also enduring violent launch stresses.

Adequate performance in such circumstances can never be taken for granted. All materials, components and engineering techniques being considered for use on a space mission require exhaustive testing to the point of destruction before being cleared for flight. Their general properties must be known in detail along with the specific effects of the space environment upon them.

The Materials and Components Laboratories are split into two divisions – Materials and Processes – which are both divided in turn into Technology and Evaluation subsections. Made up of around 15 separate experimental facilities overall; the Laboratories perform their space-focused testing and analysis applying an unrivalled combination of expert knowledge and specialised equipment.

Last update: 4 September 2013

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