China Has Built a Huge Space Simulation Chamber

Well it certainly caught my attention when I saw the headlines  “China’s first Space Environment Simulator” sounds like something right out of an adventure holiday. Whilst you can’t buy tickets to ‘have a go’ it’s actually for China to test spacecraft before launching them into the harsh environments of space. It allows researchers to simulate nine environmental factors; vacuum, high and low temperature, charged particles, electromagnetic radiation, space dust, plasma, weak magnetic field, neutral gasses and microgravity – and it even looks futuristic too!

The Harbin Institute of Technology and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation developed the simulator as part of China’s first large scale scientific facility. It’s official name is the Space Environment Simulation and Research Infrastructure facility, or SESRI for short and it will provide focus to explore the environments of space with focus on space craft and life forms and also on plasma (charged gas) interactions. 

The facility covers an area the size of 50 soccer fields, has four main laboratories and has the ability to tailor the environmental conditions based on research requirements. Each one covers a different aspect of space exploration for example the Lunar Dust Simulation chamber studies the impact of dust on spacecraft, astronauts and their spacesuits. Any space faring person or craft is subjected to extreme temperature fluctuations, to elevated levels of charged particles and electromagnetic radiation and to higher levels of space dust and all of these are adjustable with the simulator.

Spacecraft and suits are subjected to dust on the Moon and (one day) other worlds. Sample collection on the surface of the Moon by Apollo 16 astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr. is shown collecting samples with the Lunar Roving Vehicle in the left background. Image: NASA

Some experiments that previously required time in space will no longer have to be launched and can be completed on the ground in a far more controlled, safer and even cheaper environment. Deputy Commander in Chief of the project Li Liyi even mused that it was akin to bringing the space station to Earth. In addition to offering and simulating the environment to test space craft, it will also allow for agricultural breeding and life science experiments to explore humans reaction and interaction to long term colonies on other planets. 

The official opening came after 18 years of work from start to finish and hopes to establish China as one of the world’s main aerospace powers. It has already received interest from as many as 110 universities and institutes from over 30 countries. 

SESRI holds great importance to China in facilitating scientific and technological breakthroughs that can span across technologies, sciences and even industries. But China’s aspiration’s don’t stop there. They hope it will help to unravel some of the mysteries of the universe and reveal scientific laws that govern the cosmos we see today. 

Source : Nation opens first simulated environment for space research

Mark Thompson

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