National Satellite Testing Facility
Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Oxford

A new National Satellite Testing Facility on the Harwell campus in Didcot, Oxfordshire. The five-storey building measures approximately 75m x 60m on plan and is formed of a large central corridor with a series of connecting bespoke testing chambers, including acoustically isolated rooms, electromagnetically sealed rooms and a 200-tonne thermal vacuum chamber to replicate conditions in space.

A steel framed solution has been used to achieve the spans of up to 19m required for the test chambers, with several types of truss being used. The building contains six overhead gantry cranes of varying capacities for moving equipment around internally. The upper floors and roof have been formed using Cross-Laminated Timber spanning between the steel, which provides a lightweight solution and minimises wet working on site. The building sits on reinforced strip footings that bear directly onto the chalk, and the ground floor slab is ground-bearing and designed to resist the large point loading from the satellite trailers. A single-storey circular basement sits under one of the test chambers, formed using a tunneling method typically used on large civil engineering projects.

Two of the main challenges for us was the coordination of services and integration of large pieces of specialist equipment – some of which have been installed, at this site, for the first time in the UK. Most of the rooms adopt a Cleanroom Requirement and so the detailing of connections and interfaces have been designed by specialists to avoid contamination.

Completed 2021.

Project Information


Science and Technology Facilities Council / Mace