Particle fallout sensor can measure contamination in real time
A new technology developed as a TDE activity along with XCAM (GB), has built the first prototype sensor to monitor particle contamination for measuring particle fallout before, during and after launch.
Inside a launcher fairing – the part of a spacecraft intended to protect a precious payload during launch that is normally jettisoned once launch is complete – it is currently only possible to measure how much particulate contamination has occurred between the fairing being encapsulated onto the craft before launch until after launch by retrieving samples afterwards. A retrieval that is often impossible.
Keeping track of particle contamination is vital since some sensors could be seriously affected by particles settling on optical surfaces and others by molecular deposits or organic contamination.
While scientists can take careful measurements in a clean room environment in real time there is no real solution to the big uncertainty we currently have on particulate fall-out from encapsulation until separation.
Now, a team from XCAM (GB) have designed, developed, manufactured and tested a breadboard model of a real-time system for the measurement of particle fallout.
Their focus was on monitoring the environments typically encountered by spacecraft systems just before and after launch, such as particle fallout under the launcher fairing and particle redistribution due to launch vibrations and shocks.
Achieving TRL 4, they now plan to prove the technology ready for flight in a launcher environment by 2020 through a follow-on GSTP activity.
This TDE activity T424-301QE closed in September 2018.