Mechanical Dynamic Test Facility (MDT)

The 'Big Shaker' is an electrodynamic vibration test facility with a nominal force of 89 kilonewtons. It is run by the DLR Institute of Space Systems, and used for the approval of space systems and components using mechanical dynamic vibration tests. Eu:CROPIS, the first compact satellite to be developed at the Institute of Space Systems, was tested using the Big Shaker as part of the satellite strategy of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). In the future, all of the successors of Eu:CROPIS, as well as the S2TEP range of satellites will be tested at this facility.

Facility tests new satellites for space transport suitability

The Big Shaker is integrated into the DIN ISO/EN 17025:2018-accredited Mechanical Dynamic Test Laboratory (MDT) of the Mechanics and Thermal Systems Department. During a rocket launch, a satellite or space component is subject to heavy vibration and transient mechanical loads; the Big Shaker enables the mechanical and dynamic testing of qualification units and flight units to ensure that they can survive a launch.

In detail, this means:

  • Quasi-static load tests with low-frequency sinusoidal excitation below the first natural frequency of the test object
  • Frequency response tests with sinusoidal excitation of up to 2000 hertz with low excitation amplitude
  • Frequency response studies with sinusoidal excitation of up to 2000 hertz and realistic loads
  • Tests of noise loads at frequencies of 5–2000 hertz
  • Tests of shock loads such as half-sine or sawtooth shock, as well as pyroshock tests with smaller test levels of up to 5000 hertz

The results obtained in the tests can be used to demonstrate the structural integrity of space structures in terms of the loads that occur at launch. The 89 kilonewton vibration test facility enables mechanical dynamic development, qualification and acceptance tests on spacecraft of the size of the Eu:CROPIS compact satellite, according to ISO-8 cleanroom conditions.

The location of the facility, adjacent to the integration hall of the Institute of Space Systems, means that parts to be tested need only travel very short distances. This results in huge savings on logistics. It is also very efficient at meeting the special requests of internal customers. Moreover, the facility offers the opportunity for ongoing development of facility and testing technology for satellites.


Volker Speelmann

Head of Research Infrastructures
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Executive Board department for Innovation, Transfer and Research Infrastructure
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne

Annette Bäger

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Space Systems
Mechanics and Thermal Systems
Robert-Hooke-Straße 7, 28359 Bremen