Space payload environmental vibration testing and force limited vibration testing (FLVT)

Kistler has designed a comprehensive product portfolio for these environmental testing applications. It includes low-mass and lightweight triaxial accelerometers, 3-component force sensors, preloaded force links for easy mounting, cabling equipment and related signal conditioners. Our lightweight solutions feature superior characteristics such as low outgassing, low noise and low crosstalk.

Because of the high costs involved, space payloads undergo some of the most exhaustive testing in the world: vibration qualification tests for satellites are just one example. Extensive payload tests are performed during product development in order to optimize the structure, and also in the manufacturing phase to ensure survivability during launch, deployment and long-term operation. To simulate the environmental conditions that a payload must survive during rocket launch, electrodynamic shakers are used for realistic dynamic load testing.

 
Satellite environmental vibration testing
– sine and random vibration.
(source: NASA)

Force limited vibration testing can prevent over-testing that could damage costly satellites. By measuring and limiting the reaction forces between the payload and the slip table, the acceleration is notched at the payload resonances. In actual flight, input acceleration is notched at the payload resonant frequencies, as the mechanical impedance of the structural mount and payload is similar. In shaker testing, space payload interface forces are higher at the payload resonances; this is because the shaker has very high mechanical impedance and is controlled by the enveloped interface acceleration.

Important technologies for the application

Spacecraft structures are often made of thin, lightweight materials, so they require low-mass accelerometers. In some cases, sensors and cables are launched within the satellite: this makes mass loading even more critical.

Exposure to the high vacuum level of a space environment induces material outgassing that releases entrapped gas. This can condense on surfaces such as camera lenses, rendering them inoperative for the intended application. Hermetically sealed sensors and low-outgassing cabling solutions from Kistler are sometimes authorized for use in thermal vacuum chambers, or they may even be left on the satellite for launch.

Space payloads must undergo extensive environmental testing with micro-vibrations: this calls for sensor thresholds ranging from very low to the higher g levels encountered during random vibration testing. With Kistler's low noise solutions, the same sensor can be used for the entire range.

Benefits

Reduced mass loading effects thanks to low-mass accelerometers 

Fewer accelerometer references required because Kistler solutions allow use of the same sensor to cover the entire range

Compatible for use in thermal vacuum chambers and on board satellites 

Optimal mounting options for triaxial force sensors 

Highly accurate force measurements and moment calculations

Optimized number of DAQ channels required for force measurement with charge signals

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