ESA’s newest Galileo satellite has emerged from five weeks of simulated space conditions. On Friday, a hatch slid open to end its thermal-vacuum test, a milestone on the way to orbit.
The satellite was placed in the 4.5-meter-diameter Phenix chamber in ESA’s ESTEC Test Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in late October. Once inside, the air was pumped out to create a space-quality vacuum. The temperature extremes were also reproduced, with the six copper walls of the thermal tent cooled by liquid nitrogen down to -180°C.
A second Galileo has been undergoing the same rigors at the site, along with a vibration and shock test to reproduce separation from the launcher. Thermal-vacuum testing on the second model will begin early next year. The two satellites will be launched on a Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana midway through this coming year. They are the first two Full Operational Capability (FOC) satellites, following on from the first four already in orbit.
The next Galileo is expected to arrive at ESTEC in March, with further satellites following every seven weeks or so. A total of 22 FOC satellites are being built by OHB in Germany, with navigation payloads being delivered from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. in the UK.