Videos highlight labs working as ‘CSI ESA’

4 October 2012

When mission-critical tests go unexpectedly, ESA projects turn to the Agency’s state-of-the-art Materials and Electrical Components Laboratories to find out why. New video case studies depict the kind of detailed detective work involved.

This work normally stays behind the closed doors of the Labs, based at ESTEC, ESA’s technical heart in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

Made up of around 15 separate experimental facilities overall, the Labs perform exhaustive testing on all materials, components and engineering techniques being considered for use in space.

If an item fails during testing or development – from an individual wire splitting to components malfunctioning or structures giving way – then follow-up failure analysis is performed to pinpoint the root cause and come up with a solution.

“The Labs are there to make sure that critical technology is available to missions and projects when needed and to solve all problems and anomalies that come their way,” commented Wolfgang Veith, head of ESA’s Product Assurance and Safety Department.

“It’s a vital effort in order to keep all the Agency’s missions on track.

“So we decided the best way of communicating the importance and interest of this role to an outside audience is to take them through some actual examples, explained in plain language by engineers who did the analysis.”

Each of the three videos in the series focuses on a different problem-solving case study:

  • Why did Vega’s fourth stage fuel tank explode during burst testing?

  • Do surprise cracks observed in a crystal oscillator threaten missions like BepiColombo?

  • Can the design of Mars Express be safely reused for the very different conditions on a mission to Venus?

The videos are viewable through the right-hand links.

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