AEDC conducts space environment test for US Navy


Above: Members of AEDC’s Space Threat Assessment Testbed (STAT) Test & Evaluation team install a microsatellite in the STAT chamber before conducting a test. (Photo by Jacqueline Cowan)

The Space and Missiles Combined Test Force (CTF) at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) recently completed its first Space Threat Assessment Test and Evaluation (STAT) for the US Navy.

Engineers from the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division requested several candidate electronic components be exposed to low energy electrons they would experience on-orbit. The test was funded under a Naval Innovative Science and Engineering project that focuses on single electron effects in advanced electronics.

In true CTF fashion, the STAT team performing this test was made up of AEDC civilians and military members and contractors, and augmented by NSWC personnel. The test was a significant milestone for AEDC as it marked the start of external organizations using the STAT team to perform space test and evaluation in a ground-based combined environments facility.

STAT testing involves recreating space environments from low-earth orbit to geo-synchronous orbit in order to expose systems-under-test to natural and induced conditions.

Since the test team can simultaneously combine these effects on components, subsystems and even full-up satellites, it provides unique knowledge leading to technology maturation, acquisition development and risk reduction, and operational tactics, techniques and procedures for operators of such space-based systems.

Prior to the STAT capability, the team conducted similar testing in the Characterization of Combined Orbital Surface Effects (CCOSE) facility. However, testing in CCOSE was on a much smaller scale, 2 x 2 inches as compared to the STAT chamber’s 30 x 30 inch test section.

Examples of testing the team has conducted include subjecting solar cells, electronics and thermal control coatings to the conditions found in space. In addition to real-time orbital simulation, the team can accelerate long-term exposure and effects that the space environment has on hardware. 

The STAT chamber is 7ft deep and 10ft wide, and can provide uniform exposure from various space environmental sources. The chamber’s design allows the team to access either the sources or the systems-under-test while maintaining test conditions in the remainder of the chamber interior. It is capable of testing anything from large-scale satellite components to small-scale satellites.

May 1, 2015

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