Space Engineering Lab
The Boltzmann Vacuum Chamber facility. Photo credit: Dave Guttridge
Research postgraduate Danielle O' Driscoll operating the Martian lander, which is used for the Space Engineering lab's deployable structures research.
Dr Nigel MacCarthy, Experimental Services Manager
The Space Engineering Lab opened in July 2018 with the commissioning of the Boltzmann Vacuum Chamber: a large cylindrical high vacuum test facility 2 m in length and 1.5 m in diameter. This vacuum chamber uses a combination of turbopumps and a cryopanel to achieve background pressures representative of the low earth orbit environment.
The primary purpose of the vacuum facility is to experimentally investigate plasma thrusters (Electric Propulsion) for spacecraft propulsion applications. The first plasma thruster tested within this facility (the Quad Confinement Thruster) first fired in August 2019. The Space Engineering Lab also supports research into spacecraft deployable structures, including a testbed for a deployable heatshield for hypersonic entry into the Martian atmosphere.