Kistler Instruments Ltd. - PRODUCT NEWS

Kistler dynamometer keeps satellite on target

Most equipment manufacturers aim for maximum reliability but still maintain a team of service engineers for the few times something breaks down but sending an engineer to fix a fault is simply not an option, if the equipment is in space.

This is the problem faced by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) of Guildford, the most experienced small satellite company in the world, with over 32 successful launches since the first in partnership with NASA in 1981. Today’s SSTL satellites have evolved from earlier designs using the best available technology to minimise cost and maximise reliability.

The launch phase places huge vibrational loads on the payload making the need to over engineer and thoroughly test every component essential to ensure that these loads do not compromise the performance of the satellite. Typically, the “positioning wheels”, a type of gyro, that maintain the satellite in alignment with a ground station antenna when downloading data or a specific area when imaging, use precision ball race bearings that can become pitted in the launch phase resulting in electro-mechanical noise during in-space operation. This noise can interfere with the operation of the delicate electronics used for imaging and navigation systems on the satellite.

To simulate the operation of the “positioning wheels”, SSTL use a test rig based on a three-component dynamometer, manufactured by Kistler Instruments, which measures the forces produced by the “positioning wheels”. It is this force that, in space, maintains the satellite antenna in line with an earth station or a particular constellation depending on the mission objective. When the “positioning wheels” run at around 5,000 rpm to make a large change in the satellite position, noise is not a problem but when making small, repeated adjustments, noise can cause camera shake resulting in blurred imaging or loss of lock in the star camera positioning system.

“We chose the Kistler dynamometer and amplifier combination as we needed the long term stability and precision provided by the piezoelectric force sensors used in the instrument”, says SSTL’s Andrew Haslehurst.

Kistler Instruments Limited
Established in Wintherthur (Switzerland) in 1957, Kistler is represented in over 50 countries and has subsidiaries in Germany, France, Italy, UK, Japan, USA, China, Korea and Singapore. With a staff of more than 800, the Kistler Group is one of the world's leading providers of dynamic measuring instrumentation. The Kistler Group achieved turnover of 160 million Swiss Francs in the 2005 financial year.
Kistler's core competence is the development, production and use of sensors for measuring pressure, force and acceleration. Kistler's know-how and electronic systems can be used to prepare measuring signals for use in analyzing physical processes, controlling and optimizing industrial processes, improving product quality in manufacturing and improving performance in sports and rehabilitation.
Kistler offers a comprehensive range of sensors and systems for engine development, automotive engineering, plastics and metal processing, installation technology and biomechanics.
Heavy investment in research and development, 15% of staff worldwide are engaged in research and development, has generated a number of innovations using piezoelectric, piezoresistive and capacitive techniques to provide solutions to numerous force, pressure and acceleration measuring problems. These innovations include the world's first commercial quartz sensor, two-wire constant current technology to integrate sensors with microelectronic circuitry, high-temperature pressure sensors for use up to 400 Deg C and three-component force measuring sensors.


For more information, please contact :-

Kistler Instruments Ltd.
13 Murrell Green Business Park, London Road, Hook RG27 9GR
Tel: +44 (0)1256 741550
Fax: +44 (0)1256 741551

November 2009

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