Satellite Test Operations – GEO/LEO Test Requirements

Modern Launch Requirements

Environmental testing for spaceflight hardware has changed significantly over the years. In the early days, only a handful of facilities housed the capability to meet the strenuous requirements for the intense journey provided by seminal launch vehicles. As progress was made, the breadth of aerospace manufacturing in the United States necessitated more localized test facilities to simulate environments. These facilities were integrating components into more iterative buses for Geosynchronous Orbit and Low-Earth Orbit (GEO and LEO) satellites and were looking for more streamlined testing processes.

Modern launch manuals, which help manufacturers define the tests required for a successful launch, provide much more robust and granular guidance based on experience and failure analysis. Many launch manuals now look to Acoustic testing as one of the primary “Test as You Fly” simulations for survivability. This relegates Vibration testing to a workmanship-only testing companion – which is no less important but more focused on build quality and less on design.

With a new generation of spaceflight hardware emerging, it’s no longer just GEO/LEO satellites that will require launch qualification. From one-off CubeSats to thousands-wide constellations, the advent of private spaceflight hardware is only just beginning to take shape; and the industry is ready for a solution to testing that is decentralized and offers instantly transparent results.

With established manufacturers seeking streamlined operations and emerging ones seeking advice, Acoustic Research Systems (ARS) is in a unique position to apply bespoke technology in an unprecedented way, specifically with the NeutronTM 104.

Applying NeutronTM Technology

ARS anticipated a shift in testing environments for spacecraft and developed NeutronTM 104 to apply much needed scalability to launch vehicle acoustics. ARS’s goal was both deceptively simple yet immensely challenging: create a purpose-built device to meet requirements while using about the same energy that a typical wall-outlet can provide. Just a few of these devices could be then used at any facility in the world for a small satellite system while the very same device could be iterated and scaled up to test the largest spaceflight hardware.

The ARS NeutronTM System has achieved this goal and set a new benchmark for efficiency and quality not only for the emerging space technologies, but also for the traditional GEO and LEO platforms. This system has similar space requirements as legacy Direct Field Acoustic Noise (DFAN) test systems but offers several improvements inherent in the design:

  • Simplified Setup/Teardown – Since everything is scalable and only a single cable is required per device, setup and stowaway are easier and pose less risks due to the stability of the assembled structure.
  • Simplified Operation – With no need for complex, “expert only” control methods or experience, anyone can run a reliable test.
  • Unparalleled Efficiency – The NeutronTM System consumes about 1/3 of the energy of a concert legacy system, allowing the user to operate from house-power in many cases.
  • Reliability – Thanks to the increased efficiency, there is no need to cool down between runs or replace drivers between tests. The system is self-protecting and, therefore, self-sufficient.

Looking to the Future

Acoustic Research Systems is committed to expanding the value of environmental testing by continuing to invest in research and development through strategic partnerships, publications and cutting-edge experimental designs. With the success of the NeutronTM system, ARS has been able to reinvest in further efforts to meet requirements as they advance and evolve further.

There’s much more to come. To all who have helped contribute to the success of this project, a sincere “Thank You.”

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