Warrington Museum celebrates town’s space heritage with new Hubble exhibit

Warrington Museum & Art Gallery has been presented with a loan that’s out of this world, as part of the Hubble telescope goes on long-term display.

Last summer saw families from across the North West flocking to the town-centre venue as Culture Warrington and Golden Square presented a Summer of Space.

Introducing the varied space-themed programme, which culminated in Warrington Arts Festival with Luke Jerram’s impressive Museum of the Moon, was the Space Odyssey exhibition at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery.

At the heart of this exhibition were real parts of the Hubble Space Telescope’s solar array system, including its deployment arm, loaned by ESR Technology. Some of this equipment actually flew on the Hubble Space Telescope, travelling two billion kilometres around the Earth, before it was retrieved and sent to ESR Technology’s facility in Warrington by the European Space Agency (ESA) for examination.

Now, the Museum Street venue will become home to a longer-term exhibit as the Birchwood-based business donates a piece relating to the Hubble on a renewable loan basis.

The Solar Array Drive Mechanism (SADM) is an integral component of the Hubble, which enables the telescope to work continuously during its orbit.

Craig Sherwood, collections officer at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery, explained: “The Hubble Space Telescope is powered by solar energy and so the solar arrays are rotated to get the maximum amount of sunlight on the Hubble’s solar cells.

“The SADM enables this to happen by rotating the solar arrays at the required speed, to collect as much solar power as possible and transfer it to the telescope’s instruments and batteries”

The piece that ESR technology is loaning to Warrington Museum & Art Gallery is a test model of the SADM, which will be available to view in the Cabinet of Curiosities Gallery from Wednesday 12 February.

Few people realise that Warrington has played a significant role in most European space missions over the past 50 years, which include ESR Technology testing (before launch) and examining (after it had been in orbit) Hubble components, including the SADM, at its European Space Tribology Laboratory (ESTL) facility in Birchwood. This work was performed by ESTL under contract to ESA.

Mr Sherwood said: “One of the reasons we held the Space Odyssey exhibition last year was to highlight the fact that space research, development and test is going on just down the road, which is just amazing.

“Warrington’s involvement in European space missions still remains a little-known fact, so this is a great opportunity to celebrate that heritage with this long-term exhibit.”

Simon Griffin, ESR Technology’s business director for space, is delighted to be loaning the SADM model to Warrington Museum & Art Gallery and is eager to share Warrington’s space story with the wider community.

He said: “The SADM is a perfect showcase of our expertise.

“ESR Technology are world leaders in this area of tribology – the science and engineering of friction, wear and lubrication – and we’ve been based here in Warrington for 50 years.

“We’re a key part of European space industry and we’re currently working on things that will travel to the Sun and to Jupiter’s icy moons. It’s really exciting and it’s what really gives us that buzz.”

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