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CERN facilities relevant to the aerospace community

These unique technical facilities are able to reproduce environments representative of the most extreme radiation or thermal space conditions.

Radiation testing of CELESTA satellite inside CHARM facility
Radiation testing of CELESTA satellite inside CHARM facility (Image: CERN)

CHARM (Mixed-field)

A unique facility for large systems irradiation tests

CHARM enables low-cost radiation testing of large system for new space projects.

This unique irradiation structure is now available to users from the aerospace community. It can batch screen many components or boards in parallel, as well as test large systems, from a full rack to medium-sized satellites in full operating conditions. It was used to test the CELESTA CubeSat before its flight in space. This event was the first ever system level test of a full satellite.

VESPER (High energy electrons)

The place to come to before leaving for Jupiter

VESPER is the only facility on Earth able to replicate the most extreme phenomena of Jupiter’s harsh radiative environment. The biggest planet of the Solar System has a very strong magnetic field, which traps electrons of energies up to several hundred megaelectron volts with very large fluxes.

In order to prepare the JUICE spacecraft for its exploration mission around Jupiter’s icy moons, expected to last several years, ESA came to VESPER. There, they successfully tested the capacity of some of the JUICE critical electronic components to withstand high energy electron fluxes for such long durations.

SPS NORTH AREA (Heavy ions)

Energetic heavy ions for high penetration tests

CERN is capable of replicating the actual galactic cosmic ray spectrum to test electronics before they take a trip into space. Unlike standard facilities, the SPS North Area can operate with ultra-high energy heavy ions. These particle beams allow in-depth testing of space components in air and without opening the package (decapsulation).

Many test campaigns have been organised in collaboration with ESA in the SPS North Area, using xenon and lead ions. Launched into space on ESA’s PhiSat-1 in 2020, Myriad-2, Intel’s new artificial intelligence chip for Earth observation, was first tested at CERN in 2018.

The SPS North Area is also used to calibrate scientific instruments for astroparticle physics in space from the iconic AMS-02 to future missions like the High Energy Cosmic-Radiation Detection (HERD), an experiment focused on indirect dark matter search, cosmic ray physics and gamma ray astronomy for China’s future space station.





HL-LHC Cold box at Point 4
Building the HL-LHC Cold box in SD4. This is part of the upgrade of the LHC cryogenic system for HL-LHC. There will be a series of photos on the work done in the cold box. This first concerns welding work (Image: CERN)

CRYOLAB, testing complex systems in cryogenic conditions

With many of its magnets operating at temperatures colder than outer space, the LHC is the largest cryogenic system in the world and one of the coldest places on Earth. For more than 50 years, CERN’s unique cryogenic facilities – also known as Cryolab – have provided expertise and R&D opportunities at low temperatures.

In these installations able to go from 100 Kelvin (-173°C) down to the milliKelvin temperature range, the aerospace sector has the opportunity to design, test and ensure the safety of its equipment as well as study superconducting systems in cryogenic conditions.

Its testing capabilities range from direct bath cooling techniques to thermal cycling in the respective liquid or under vacuum conditions, and cryogen-free refrigeration. Significant expertise has been developed in material characterisation to measure interface resistances, residual resistivity ratio, thermal contraction, conductivity and diffusivity data.