Extreme conditions: Force transducers for space travel

In space, temperatures, pressures and forces are different from those in the environments we are familiar with. This means that measurement technology ?up there? is subjected 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 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 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 for this. They must measure exactly the forces acting 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 seek out load pins ideal for space, an aerospace company had initially enquired with another manufacturer. But this supplier had not been able to meet up with the extraordinary requirements. The strain pins would need to:
function reliably at extremely cold temperatures (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)
Many years of experience with load pins and miniaturisation
WIKA is rolling out and built this version of lots pin for an area mission.
Ultimately, the drawings, technical data and test requirements finished up at WIKA. Because of 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 client had wanted.
But that was only the initial challenge. The next was to subject the strain pins to a multitude of tests in order to guarantee, with absolute certainty, 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:
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 required measuring quality, even with 100,000 test cycles at the required 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
As well as space flight, WIKA also serves the aviation industry with specific measurement solutions. One of these of this may be the development of a force transducer as part of the European ?Clean Sky? programme, which aims to lessen emissions from aircraft. WIKA also supplies Brazen for oxygen systems and pressure transducers for ice detection in jet engines.
Note
Further information 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 overview of WIKA?s force measurement technology. Assuming you have any questions, your contact will gladly help you.
Also read our posts
Force transducer: making air traffic cleaner
Force & power ? what actually are they?
Load pins and the like: One product, various terms & areas of application
Anchor force measurement ? a discipline that will require experience
Any risk of strain transducer in practical application

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