10 tech facilities you can see from space

Huge factories and labs that astronauts can see


We hear all about vast factories and data centres, but locating them on a map can be difficult.

Here are ten of the largest technical facilities in the world – the largest supercomputer, the biggest assembly plant, the most impressive chip fabrication plant, all with a top-down Google Earth image for a quick view.

1. Foxconn Factory Campus

Foxconn is a key manufacturer for Apple and other huge tech companies. In its massive 15-building campus in Shenzhen region of China, there are at least a million workers. The facility covers an area covering around three square kilometers.


2. Boeing Airplane Factory

Boeing, the American airplane manufacturer, could not find enough space in the Seattle area back in 1967 to build the massive facility it wanted. So Boeing chose the small town of Everett, Washington. The site houses multiple buildings – one is the largest in the world in terms of volume, at 13,385,378 cubic meters – that build most of their iconic planes, including the new 787 Dreamliner.


3. Intel Assembly Test Center

Located in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, this $1 billion factory, completed in 2010, is the largest chip assembly plant in the world. With about 4,000 workers and 500,000 square feetof space, the facility is one of seven fabs the chip-maker operates in the world. The plant uses FCBGA (Flip Chip Ball Grid Array) binding technology for mobile processors, a new technique that means flatter, more powerful chips.


4. Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK (NMUK)

The largest car-assembly plant in the UK, this massive factory covers about 3 square kilometers and houses a battery assembly plant for the Nissan Leaf electric car. The plant is close to Washington, Tyne and Wear and opened in 1986. The popular Nissan Juke is also assembled here.


5. Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant

The largest solar power plant in the world, located in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, theSarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant produces about 80 megawatts of power using 1.3 million panels that cover an area that's about one million meters square. The plant produces enough power to shut down a coal power plant that produces about 39,000 tons of carbon emissions per year.


6. @Tokyo Data Center

Considered the largest data center in the world with about 1.4 million square feet of space, the @Tokyo Data Center looks like a Borg complex with a center hive and surrounding infrastructure. Built in 2000, the facility is a joint venture between the Tokyo Power Company and INTEC, an IT services company.

Tokyo dc

7. RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science

This RIKEN facility in Hyogo, Japan houses the fastest supercomputer in the world, running at 10 petaflops (that's10 quadrillion calculations per second for those keeping track). The supercomputer is used for brain research, climate change studies, and advanced science research. The supercomputer, a K Computer built by Fujitsu Global, is not quite operational: it goes online next year.


8. Switch Communications Group

Covering almost a half-million square feet, the Switch Communications Group data center in Las Vegas is one of the largest in the world. It's claim to fame is how much advanced technology they use: the compact design can house up to about 7,000 servers and operates at 2,000 watts per square foot. There are over 800 racks inside the facility, which has a second control office across town.


9. Moffett Federal Airfield

If you can't see NASA's Moffett research facility from space, you are not looking in the right place. The massive facility, situated just south of the San Francisco bay, houses multiple research facilities, an airfield, a supercomputer center, and even several volleyball courts.


10. Cyberjaya

Some call it a technology ghost town, but Cyberjaya is quite visible from space – and is still a vast technical center of some renown. Google operates a data center here, and the university is going strong. Still, much of the land remains underdeveloped and there are only about 10,000 residents.



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