Extreme conditions: Force transducers for space travel

In space, temperatures, pressures and forces will vary from those in the environments we have been familiar with. Therefore measurement technology ?up there? is exposed to specific stresses. WIKA has 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 space 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 exactly the forces functioning on the flight control surfaces of the spacecraft. Conventional load pins are not up to this task ? 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 the extraordinary requirements. The load pins would have to:
function reliably at extremely winter (down to -65 �C)
withstand very high loads and become fatigue-proof
have very compact dimensions (the diameter of the measuring bore was just 8 mm)
Many years of experience with load pins and miniaturisation
WIKA is rolling out and built this version of lots pin for an area mission.
In the end, the drawings, technical data and test requirements ended up at WIKA. Due to their a long time of experience, both with load pins and also in instrument miniaturisation, WIKA?s force measurement experts succeeded in developing and manufacturing the products that the client had wanted.
But that has been only the initial challenge. The second was to subject the strain pins to a multitude of tests in order to guarantee, with absolute certainty, that they would function correctly in space. However, the testing facilities necessary 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 own 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 load pins maintained the mandatory measuring quality, even after 100,000 test cycles at the mandatory low temperature. This was then also demonstrated in the application: The control surfaces of the spacecraft functioned perfectly and enabled a safe flight into space and back.
Measuring solutions for aviation too
Besides 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 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 instance ring force transducers and strain transducers, are available on the WIKA website. You can also download a brochure with a compact summary of WIKA?s force measurement technology. In case you have any questions, your contact will gladly help you.
Also read our posts
Force transducer: making air traffic cleaner
Force & power ? what are actually they?
Load pins and the like: One product, various terms & regions of application
Anchor force measurement ? a discipline that requires experience
The strain transducer in practical application

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