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TOM SCOTT: I got an email that said:
"Do you want to come and see our satellite clean room"?
Yes. Yes I do.
(How do you get into this thing?)
WOUTER WEGGELAAR: This is the clean room area.
We have a working environment here for the people to work clean.
Basically this is a box in a box.
And on the roof we have some filters
and also in the walls we have ventilation
so the air is always going downwards
and this is also a laminar flow cleanroom
so the air is also going straight down
instead of in vortexes.
TS: This is Innovative Space Logistics in the Netherlands.
Originally a spinoff from TU Delft's engineering department,
they now launch Cubesats, like this one --
okay, it's a model, that's why I'm allowed to touch it --
but they launch satellites like this into actual space.
I mean, the rockets go up from all over the world,
but some of the satellites that are on board? Put together right here.
WW: Well, the cage behind me is a customs area
where we have the satellites enter the clean room
but not the Netherlands
and that's for export reasons.
Technically we're exporting these satellites to a country
which is the country of launch
but they are exporting to space
and space doesn't have a box on the forms!
TS: There are international standards for cleanrooms.
They go from ISO 9, which is just normal air,
to ISO 1. Now this room is only ISO 7,
which doesn't sound very impressive until you realise it's a log scale:
each level of that standard requires a tenth of the dust and particulates.
So this room guarantees less than 1% of the dust outside it.
WW: So the main contamination source --
and that's also why I'm wearing all of this --
is particles that are released from our own bodies.
Dead skin cells, hairs. If you smoke, even air you exhale.
Beard, in my case, because I have a beard mask on.
Cardboard, paper, velcro --
basically stuff that can hold particles and release it when you don't want to.
TS: And it's not just the dust particles that you can see.
Those are actually pretty easy.
Cleanrooms also have to remove microparticles,
things smaller than a bacterium.
You don't have to get them all,
but you do have to get most of them.
WW: This is a small communications satellite called Nayif-1.
And this satellite will be a communication experiment
and also will be used in classrooms for teaching about space.
Schools can pick up the signals from this satellite
decode them in the classroom
and teach about space, teach about radio.
TS: In here, the worst-case scenario is contamination on a camera lens,
or a vacuum gyroscope that fails while it's doing 10,000 RPM... in space.
This down here is an actual satellite,
it's headed for space later this year,
and I've got to stand back from it,
because if I lean over, dust from me,
or spittle from my mouth, could fall down.
Won't break anything right now,
but in zero-gravity, in vacuum,
with direct solar radiation shining down on it?
You can't exactly call a breakdown service to fix your satellite.
So for safety's sake, it's kept very, very clean.
But those ISO 1 cleanrooms? They're for very different missions.
WW: ISO 1 cleanrooms is very clean,
and basically for Mars missions, or missions to the moon,
where we do not want to contaminate the surface of a planet or a body that we go to.
TS: Are you sending anything to Mars any time soon?
WW: Not at the moment, it's not planned
but maybe in the future we will send something to Mars! You never know.
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