In space, temperatures, pressures and forces are different from those in the environments we are familiar with. Because of this measurement technology ?up there? is exposed to specific stresses. WIKA has now developed, tested and supplied special force transducers for space travel. They are customer-specific load pins which have now proven themselves on a flight into space.
Space travel has long been commercialised, and concepts for space tourism are taking shape. In the development departments of the area industry, plans are maturing for new generations of launch vehicles along with other transporters for multiple, and therefore resource-saving, missions. To bring passengers, crew and vehicles safely back to earth, sophisticated technology, reliable in every situation, is indispensable.
A central role is played by the flight control system, which ensures the correct orientation of the spacecraft for safe missions into space and back. Load pins are critical components for this. They must measure exactly the forces acting on the flight control surfaces of the spacecraft. Conventional load pins aren’t up to this task ? diaphragm seal for spacecraft force transducers are too demanding for them.
Requirements for force transducers in space travel
In the search for load pins ideal for space, an aerospace company had initially enquired with another manufacturer. But this supplier was not able to meet the extraordinary requirements. The load pins would have to:
function reliably at extremely winter (right down to -65 �C)
withstand high loads and become fatigue-proof
have very compact dimensions (the diameter of the measuring bore was just 8 mm)
A long time of experience with load pins and miniaturisation
WIKA has developed and built this version of a load pin for a space mission.
In the end, the drawings, technical data and test requirements finished up at WIKA. Due to their many years of experience, both with load pins and also in instrument miniaturisation, WIKA?s force measurement experts succeeded in developing and manufacturing exactly the products that the client had wanted.
But that was only the first challenge. The next was to subject the load pins to a multitude of tests to assure, with absolute certainty, they would function correctly in space. However, digital pressure gauge for this were not available, neither internally nor externally. So how could the extreme operating conditions of the sensors be simulated?
Special test equipment for the space-travel force transducers
There was only 1 answer: WIKA had to create and build its special test facility with a heating chamber and an adjustment and calibration machine. It had in order to:
apply an alternating load of 23,860 kg every seven seconds
maintain an interior temperature of -65 �C
This new equipment ultimately provided proof that the strain pins maintained the required measuring quality, even with 100,000 test cycles at the mandatory low temperature. This was then also demonstrated in the application form: The control surfaces of the spacecraft functioned perfectly and enabled a safe flight into space and back.
Measuring solutions for aviation too
In addition to space flight, WIKA also serves the aviation industry with specific measurement solutions. One example of this is the development of a force transducer within the European ?Clean Sky? programme, which aims to reduce emissions from aircraft. WIKA also supplies DirectDrive pressure gauge s for oxygen systems and pressure transducers for ice detection in jet engines.
Note
More info on load pins along with other force measurement technology for extreme conditions, for instance ring force transducers and strain transducers, can be found on the WIKA website. You may also download a brochure with a concise summary of WIKA?s force measurement technology. In case you have any questions, your contact will gladly assist you to.
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