Satellite The Hubble telescope fallback image

Vacuum technology for space applications

Enabling tomorrows space research

Many of the products that we use every day can trace their origins back to space missions.

But it’s future research that will have the most profound impact on mankind. It's telling that the core objectives that space research is turning its attention to mirror some of the most pressing challenges for mankind.

  • How to create abundant, powerful but clean sources of energy 
  • Exploring whether other planets could support human life
  • Expanding our knowledge of science, astrobiology and the origins of our universe
  • Developing new technologies, medicine, and infrastructure to support future generations

But this knowledge comes at a cost. Space missions are extremely expensive and occur in the most challenging environments known to man.

For this reason, it is critical that every component, process, and component that will be used in space is extensively tested. Fixing failures post-launch is often impossible and always comes with a great cost.

Vacuum chamber with multiple vacuum pumps

Our vacuum technology simulates space like conditions on earth, allowing many different and necessary tests to take place here... for use there.

Examples of pre-launch space tests taking place today

Many of the vacuum systems we design and build are tailor-made for their purpose. Here are some examples of typical space-mission tests where our technology is used.

Electric propulsion and thruster testing

Allows for the testing of thrusters over long periods of time to ensure the thrusters can maintain performance levels and withstand space conditions over long-duration space missions.


Thermal vacuum chambers

All components that will be used in space are tested for their durability to extreme temperatures as well as irradiation (light), the thermal cycling range of TVAC’s can be between 70k and 400k.

UNIVEX S TC internal view

Telescope mirror coating

The recoating of large, highly sensitive mirrors in silver or aluminium needs to be redone every 1-2 years in vacuum. This is essential for their optimal performance.

Large telescope mirror

Telescope detector cooling

Our cryogenic technology is used to reduce the temperature of receivers down to as low as 4k. This allows telescopes to detect beyond observable-light as well as ultraviolet, gamma and microwaves.

Radio telescope at night

Mass degradation and vacuum bakeout

Total Mass Loss (TML) tests measure the degradation of elements to harsh space environments to determine their durability over long periods of time.

Internal view of UNIVEX S TML

Vacuum technology for space tests

Fore vacuum pumps Turbo pumps Cryo pumps Cryo cooling Custom chamber
Propulsion/thruster testing  
Thermal vacuum chamber testing
Mass degradation & bakeout
Telescope mirror coating      
Telescope mirror cooling    

Vacuum solutions for the space industry

At Leybold we are one of the only vacuum technology suppliers who can provide a true 360° range of products.

Whilst our portfolio is extensive and diverse, the solutions we provide to the space industry fall into 5 distinct equipment categories.

Fore-vacuum pumps

Fore-vacuum pumps are used to reduce pressure ranges from atmospheric down to 1e-2 mbar, depending on the type of pump used.

  • For mid-large volume chamber excavations would typically use high throughput pumps such as DRYVAC, RUVAC, TRIVAC or SCREWLINE would typically be used .
  • For smaller chambers/applications ECODRY plus or LEYVAC could be more suitable.
DRYVAC fore vacuum pump range
TURBOVAC i turbomolecular pump range

High-vacuum (HV)

High-vacuum (HV) pressure ranges are typically achieved in the space industry using turbomolecular pumps (TMP).

  • Our extensive range of TURBOVAC i pumps come in various sizes, pumping speeds, and with variants tailormade for specific applications.

Cryogenic technology

Cryogenic technology consists of 3 key elements:

  1. COOLPAK i helium compressors,
  2. COOLPOWER i cold heads,
  3. and a COOLVAC i cryogenic pumps.

These technologies can be configured in different ways to achieve different purposes:

  • The COOLPOWER i and COOLPAK i combine to make cryogenic refrigeration/cooling systems.
  • The COOLVAC i provides UHV vacuum up to 10,000 l/s, these are often used in conjunction the COOLPOWER i & COOLPAK i for specific processes.
COOLPAK 5000i, COOLVAC 1500 iSL, COOLVAC 10,000 iSL cryogenic vacuum and
UNIVEX S XTT internal view

Vacuum chambers & systems

Vacuum chambers & systems cover a diverse range of applications.

Our UNIVEX vacuum chambers create the real-estate where testing takes place. Some chambers are large enough to house entire spacecraft, whilst others are designed to interrogate individual elements.

As well as simulating the vacuum of space others, such as the TVAC, recreate extreme temperatures variances, or the TML which measures the loss-of-mass over long periods of time in challenging conditions. Many of these our UNIVEX systems are tailor-made to the remits of specific projects.

Measurement & instrumentation

Building a true turnkey vacuum system also requires the installation of measurement and control technologies such as:

Range of vacuum accessories

The future of space research

Perfectly balanced turnkey vacuum systems, constructed for very specific purposes, from a diverse range of vacuum solutions.

Building bespoke systems is a core principle in the development of all the technologies we create for the space sector. 

As the ambitions and technical remits of future projects evolves, so does the technology that allows space research to take place. Future projects are moving on from simply considering the implications of launch-orbit-re-entry. New areas of research include:

Closeup of planet Jupiter

Deep-space exploration

Expanding our knowledge of planets and galaxies beyond our solar system, events soon after the big bang and understanding the origins of the universe.

Satellite hovering over earth

Exoplanet research

Searching for planets that could, or could have, supported life. This involves both the search for extraterrestrial life as well as the feasibility of our own future interplanetary colonization.

Ingenuity helicopter on Mars


Understanding how the universe works, on micro and macro biological level, as well as expanding our knowledge in general terms research in this area will directly inform future missions.

Asteroid in orbit

Asteroid mining

It has been estimated that near limitless sources of natural resources and core elements exist on asteroids, access to them would bring significant economic and environmental opportunities and may provide new sources of energy for future missions.

Space debris

Space debris management

With an exponential number of satellite launches planned in the coming decades, adding to the number of objects in space, multiple projects have been planned to begin the process of clearing debris in orbit around our planet.

Image of small interplanetary colony

Interplanetary colonization

Understanding if human life could be supported on other planets, how we would get there, how we would build the supporting infrastructure required, and how we would source the food and energy supplies needed to support life.

Enabling a positive future through vacuum

With numerous sources from NASA, ESA and Morgan Stanley predicting the space economy to reach $1 trillion by 2040 the opportunities for this sector are significant.

This, coupled with the falling cost-per-kilo of getting payload into space, further strengthens the economic viability of future space missions which can be evidenced by the increasing emergence of private sector investment.

Project worker on space mission

Collaboration and innovation are intrinsically linked. Since 1850 we at Leybold have been designing and building vacuum solutions that allow projects across science, industry and R&D develop tomorrows technology.

Speak to our team about how our tailormade turnkey systems can enable our next mission.