What kind of testing does the Mechanical Systems Laboratory carry out?
The Laboratory has the capability of subjecting space hardware to hot and cold environments representative of space conditions. This is typically done by placing test items inside vacuum chambers. These chambers can be brought down to extremely low temperatures, as well as equipped with solar simulators which are lamps simulating the solar flux.
Climatic chambers at ambient pressure (with air or other gases) are also used to simulate the environment for a launch or a pressurised environment.
Two main types of thermal tests are carried out. Thermal cycling is executed to demonstrate the ability of the test item to perform correctly in its environment by subjecting it to transition phases between the expected maximum and minimum temperatures. Thermal balance is executed to validate the thermal design, the thermal model and the modelling assumptions that are used for flight performance predictions.
The Laboratory investigates material properties such as thermal conductivity and coefficient of thermal expansion and has developed a dedicated method and facility to measure the heat transfer coefficient (thermal efficiency) of multi-layers-insulation blankets. The Laboratory performs dynamic mechanical tests in ambient environment.
Typical small-scale items undergoing both thermal and mechanical tests include solar cell sample panels, sensors, materials and small payloads.
Last update: 3 May 2010