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Satellite Qualification and Vibration Testing

Satellite Qualification and Vibration Testing

Satellites used in communications and military applications are complex and costly systems. They are subjected to extensive product qualification tests and stress screening tests to ensure survivability during launch, deployment, and long-term operation.

Presentation: Major Considerations for Vibration Testing of Spacecraft & Space Electronics – with Data Physics and Vic Myers Associates

Due to the high cost, satellite vibration qualification tests are among the most monitored and carefully run tests in the world. Vibration tests are often run with hundreds of channels of simultaneous acquisition in the vibration controller. Multishaker tests are often run on extremely large payloads or for multiple degree of freedom simulation. Whether the application is large channel count vibration control or multi-shaker control, SignalStar Matrix Vibration Controllers are specifically designed for these demanding applications.

Swept sine testing is a critical component of satellite qualification. Since tests are run on actual flight hardware, prevention of over testing is of critical importance, as is the ability to apply limit channels to an unlimited channel count. Limit channels are used to assign maximum allowable vibration levels at specific locations of the test article. If these levels are reached, the drive signals are limited to reduce the test level. Force limiting can also be used to prevent over testing. In force limiting, load cells are used at the interface between the shaker table and the satellite. Analytical models are typically used to derive the force limit profiles and these profiles are assigned to the load cell channels. New features in SignalStar Vibration Controllers allow users to do the transformative force summing in the software without the use of external hardware.

vibration testing on NASA's James Webb space telescope
NASA’s James Webb space telescope just prior to undergoing vibration testing on the Team Corporation/Data Physics system.

While it is standard practice to monitor for over-test conditions on the test article, new advances in vibration test system technology include monitoring of the entire test system environment to provide further protection for high-value test articles. This includes real-time monitoring of vibration test system component health and external resources such as supplied facility power. If a shutdown event is detected, the vibration test controller immediately deploys a user-configurable controlled safe shutdown to prevent damage to the satellite or spacecraft after the trip. Trusted by NASA, SignalStar Matrix Vibration Controllers and SignalForce Amplifiers can now execute such a controlled safe shutdown – even in the event of a complete loss of facility power.

Shaker drive voltage shutdown profile after loss of facility power
Shaker drive voltage safe shutdown profile after loss of facility power.

In situations that vibration controllers do not have the channel count required for a specific test or that an independent analysis system is required, a specialized dynamic signal analyzer is used. Data Physics offers industry leading software for high channel count acquisition during shaker vibration testing. The SignalCalc Analyzer Sine Reduction software allows the simultaneous measurement of hundreds of channels of sine data and can be used to do additional monitoring. Whether it is random testing or sine data reduction, SignalCalc Dynamic Signal Analyzers offer environmental testing solutions to meet this need.

Recording of data is also a critical component of satellite testing. The Data Physics SignalStar controllers offer the option for simultaneous recording of time history data from all channels during vibration testing, and the SignalCalc analyzers also offer recording to disk.

Read the Aerospace Testing International feature story about how we’re helping RAL Space create the UK’s largest Satellite Testing Facility.

RAL Space satellite testing facility rendering
Artist’s Rendering of the National Satellite Test Facility which is to be built and operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory on behalf of the UK government.

Many satellite tests need to be performed in clean room environments and are often performed to high frequencies. Water-cooled electrodynamic shakers are the ideal choice for most satellite tests because they meet class 100 000 cleanliness requirements. One or multiple shakers can be used to perform accurate, clean, repeatable tests.

Advances in multi shaker control technology have simplified the operation of a dual shaker arrangement to test a single test article. An essential component of the dual shaker test system is the ability to share the forces applied to the test article. The two shakers positioned side by side drive the head expander or the slip table in tandem controlled by two drive signals provided by a multi shaker control system.

Read about Vibration Testing of the James Webb Space Telescope in this feature article from Aerospace Testing International’s Showcase Publication.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope preparing for vibration testing

Data Physics systems are trusted by Satellite manufacturers around the globe. Learn more about SignalForce Electrodynamic Shaker Systems for vibration testing.