Friday, 28 November 2014

Visit of the Centre Spatial de Liège

Last week, the 11th European Space Weather Week was organised in Liège and gathered together more than 400 scientists and engineers working on developing and improving the forecast of geomagnetic disturbances due to the solar activity.

On Monday morning, a visit of CSL (Centre Spatial de Liège) was organised, mixing presentations about the past, ongoing and planned projects in which CSL is involved and a visit of the test facilities – one of the four ESA testing centres.

The test centre has had very renowned guests, such as Planck and Herschel (the probes), the SWAP instrument (Sun Watcher using Active Pixel System Detector and Image processing) or the Heliospheric Imager instrument of the STEREO satellites.

The thermal box to perform the thermal testing of the probes/instruments

Different kinds of testing can be performed at CSL: thermal vacuum testing, mechanical testing and even cryogenic tests. 

The testing facilities verify class 10,000 norms (i.e. less than 10,000 particules per cubic foot), and if needed an inner chamber can be cleaned down to class 100. This is why the visitors of the test centre need to wear overshoes, lab coats and caps to enter the cleanroom.

One of the shakers to perform the vibrational tests

At CSL, for instance, the HI instrument of STEREO underwent the thermal vacuum and vibrational testings, while Herschel was brought to CSL for its cryo vibrational qualification. Perhaps the most impressive test which has been performed at CSL so far is the one consisting in maintaining the cold point of Planck at about 0.1 K for two weeks. During summer 2008, the coldest point of the known universe was certainly in Liège...

The chamber in which Planck was locked during its testing at CSL

This visit was extremely thrilling and it was great to hear of the technological feats which can be achieved in such facilities. Looking forward to seeing what new ambitious missions will be designed, assembled and tested there in the coming years!

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