Test & Measurement

Simulator for Testing Spacecraft Separation Devices

A report describes the main features of a system for testing pyrotechnic and mechanical devices used to separate spacecraft and modules of spacecraft during flight. The system includes a spacecraft simulator [also denoted a large mobility base (LMB)] equipped with air thrusters, sensors, and data-acquisition equipment. The spacecraft simulator floats on air bearings over an epoxy-covered concrete floor. This free-flotation arrangement enables simulation of motion in outer space in three degrees of freedom: translation along two orthogonal horizontal axes and rotation about a vertical axis. The system also includes a static stand. In one application, the system was used to test a boltretraction system (BRS) intended for separation of the lifting-body and deorbitpropulsion stages of the X-38 spacecraft. The LMB was connected via the BRS to the static stand, then pyrotechnic devices that actuate the BRS were fired. The separation distance and acceleration were measured. The report cites a document, not yet published at the time of reporting the information for this article, that is said to present additional detailed information.

Posted in: Test & Measurement, Briefs

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Flexible Cryogenic Temperature and Liquid-Level Probes

These probes can be readily customized. Lightweight, flexible probes have been developed for measuring temperatures at multiple locations in tanks that contain possibly pressurized cryogenic fluids. If the fluid in a given tank is subcritical (that is, if it consists of a liquid and its vapor), then in one of two modes of operation, the temperature measurements made by a probe of this type can be used to deduce the approximate level of the liquid. The temperature sensors are silicon diodes located at intervals along a probe. If the probe is to be used to measure a temperature gradient along a given axis in the tank, then the probe must be mounted along that axis. In the temperature-measurement mode, a constant small electric current is applied to each diode and the voltage across the diode — a known function of the current and temperature — is measured as an indication of its temperature. For the purpose of this measurement, “small electric current” signifies a current that is not large enough to cause a significant increase in the measured temperature. More specifically, the probe design calls for a current of 10 µA, which, in the cryogenic temperature range of interest, generates heat at a rate of only about 0.01 mW per diode.

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Dielectric Heaters for Testing Spacecraft Nuclear Reactors

A document proposes the development of radio-frequency- (RF)-driven dielectric heaters for non-nuclear thermal testing of the cores of nuclear-fission reactors for spacecraft.

Posted in: Test & Measurement, Briefs, TSP

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Hydraulic Apparatus for Mechanical Testing of Nuts

Advantages include mobility and reduced setup time.The figure depicts an apparatus for mechanical testing of nuts In the original application for which the apparatus was developed, the nuts are of a frangible type designed for use with pyrotechnic devices in spacecraft applications in which there are requirements for rapid, one-time separations of structures that are bolted together. The apparatus can also be used to test non-frangible nuts engaged without pyrotechnic devices.

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Measuring Radiation Patterns of Reconfigurable Patch Antennas on Wafers

Tests can be performed relatively inexpensively and without sawing wafers.An apparatus and technique have been devised for measuring the radiation pattern of a microwave patch antenna that is one of a number of identical units that have been fabricated in a planar array on a high-resistivity silicon wafer. The apparatus and technique are intended, more specifically, for application to such an antenna that includes a DC-controlled microelectromechanical system (MEMS) actuator for switching the antenna between two polarization states or between two resonance frequencies.

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Photodiode-Based, Passive Ultraviolet Dosimeters

Outputs of photodiodes are fed to coulometers.Simple, passive instruments have been developed for measuring the exposure of material specimens to vacuum ultraviolet (VUV) radiation from the Sun. Each instrument contains a silicon photodiode and a coulometer. The photocharge generated in the photodiode is stored in the coulometer. The accumulated electric charge measured by use of the coulometer is assumed to be proportional to the cumulative dose of VUV radiation expressed in such convenient units as equivalent Sun hours (ESH) [defined as the number of hours of exposure to sunlight at normal incidence]. Intended originally for use aboard spacecraft, these instruments could also be adapted to such terrestrial uses as monitoring the curing of ultraviolet-curable epoxies.

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Portable Electromyograph

Signals from 16 differential EMG electrodes can be recorded for 8 hours.A portable electronic apparatus records electromyographic (EMG) signals in as many as 16 channels at a sampling rate of 1,024 Hz in each channel. The apparatus (see figure) includes 16 differential EMG electrodes (each electrode corresponding to one channel) with cables and attachment hardware, reference electrodes, an input/output-and-power-adapter unit, a 16-bit analog-to-digital converter, and a hand-held computer that contains a removable 256-MB flash memory card. When all 16 EMG electrodes are in use, full-bandwidth data can be recorded in each channel for as long as 8 hours. The apparatus is powered by a battery and is small enough that it can be carried in a waist pouch.

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