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Vanguard Space Technologies’ New Thermal Vacuum Chamber Enhances Thermal Distortion Testing Capabilities

11 December 2012

Vanguard Space Technologies has expanded its thermal distortion testing capabilities with the addition of a thermal vacuum chamber. 

Operational by summer 2013, the stainless steel chamber is expected to allow Vanguard to perform vacuum, temperature and distortion testing in its assembly, integration and test facility.  Other end-item tests currently performed in-house include thermal cycling, static load and materials characterisation.

With internal dimensions of 17 feet long, 12 feet high and 10 feet wide, Vanguard says its thermal vacuum chamber will be part of the future test plan for satellite composite structures and systems built by the company.  Vacuum exposure testing provides a better understanding of the satellites’ expected performance through environmental extremes. The process involves placing the structure in the chamber and pumping the vessel down to 10-6 torr.  Vanguard will then cool and heat the structure to temperatures between -180° C and 130° C—beyond what a spacecraft will experience on orbit.  Throughout the process, test vacuum pressure is maintained and the structure is monitored by sensors.  Additionally, Vanguard can perform thermo-elastic distortion testing in the chamber using a photogrammetry camera that is environmentally isolated.

“The new thermal vacuum chamber enhances our in-house testing capabilities,” said Frank Belknap, Vanguard Chief Executive Officer.  “Vanguard has always managed vacuum, temperature and distortion test planning and procedure development, but having the ability to perform these tests in-house gives us greater control over the process and schedule.  And, since this testing is considered a major milestone in flight readiness, the thermal vacuum chamber is critical to helping our customers ensure the success of every program.”