Extreme conditions: Force transducers for space travel

In space, temperatures, pressures and forces will vary 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. These are customer-specific load pins that have now proven themselves on a flight into space.
Space travel is definitely 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 and other transporters for multiple, and thus resource-saving, missions. To create passengers, crew and vehicles safely back again to earth, sophisticated technology, reliable in every situation, is indispensable.
A central role is played by the flight control system, which ensures the right orientation of the spacecraft for safe missions into space and back. Load pins are critical components because of this. They must measure precisely the forces functioning on the flight control surfaces of the spacecraft. Conventional load pins are not up to this ? the criteria for spacecraft force transducers are too demanding for them.
Requirements for force transducers in space travel
In the search for load pins suitable for space, an aerospace company had initially enquired with another manufacturer. But this supplier was not able to meet up with the extraordinary requirements. The strain pins would have to:
function reliably at extremely cold temperatures (down to -65 �C)
withstand high loads and be 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 is rolling out 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 in addition in instrument miniaturisation, WIKA?s force measurement experts succeeded in developing and manufacturing the products that the customer had wanted.
But that was only the initial challenge. The second was to subject the strain pins to a multitude of tests to assure, with absolute certainty, that they would function correctly in space. However, the testing facilities necessary for this were not available, neither internally nor externally. Just 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 design and build its own special test facility with a heating chamber and an adjustment and calibration machine. It had to be able to:
apply an alternating load of 23,860 kg every seven seconds
maintain an internal 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 is 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 Reject for aviation too
Besides space flight, WIKA also serves the aviation industry with specific measurement solutions. One of these of this is the development of a force transducer as part of the European ?Clean Sky? programme, which aims to lessen emissions from aircraft. WIKA also supplies DirectDrive pressure gauges for oxygen systems and pressure transducers for ice detection in jet engines.
Note
More info on load pins and other force measurement technology for extreme conditions, for example ring force transducers and strain transducers, are available on the WIKA website. Also you can download a brochure with a compact summary of WIKA?s force measurement technology. For those who have any questions, your contact will gladly help you.
Also read our posts
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Load pins and so on: One product, various terms & areas of application
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