22 July 2014 Environmental testing for new SOFIA flight hardware
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New flight hardware for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has to be tested to prove its safety and functionality and to measure its performance under flight conditions. Although it is not expected to experience critical issues inside the pressurized cabin with close-to-normal conditions, all equipment has to be tested for safety margins in case of a decompression event and/or for unusual high temperatures, e.g. inside an electronic unit caused by a malfunction as well as unusual high ambient temperatures inside the cabin, when the aircraft is parked in a desert. For equipment mounted on the cavity side of the telescope, stratospheric conditions apply, i.e., temperatures from -40 °C to -60°C and an air pressure of about 0.1 bar. Besides safety aspects as not to endanger personnel or equipment, new hardware inside the cavity has to function and to perform to specifications under such conditions. To perform these tests, an environmental test laboratory was set up at the SOFIA Science Center at the NASA Ames Research Center, including a thermal vacuum chamber, temperature measurement equipment, and a control and data logging workstation. This paper gives an overview of the test and measurement equipment, shows results from the commissioning and characterization of the thermal vacuum chamber, and presents examples of the component tests that were performed so far. To test the focus position stability of optics when cooling them to stratospheric temperatures, an auto-collimation device has been developed. We will present its design and results from measurements on commercial off-the-shelf optics as candidates for the new Wide Field Imager for SOFIA as an example.
© (2014) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.
Michael Lachenmann, Michael Lachenmann, Jürgen Wolf, Jürgen Wolf, Rainer Strecker, Rainer Strecker, Benedikt Weckenmann, Benedikt Weckenmann, Fritz Trimpe, Fritz Trimpe, Helen J. Hall, Helen J. Hall, } "Environmental testing for new SOFIA flight hardware", Proc. SPIE 9145, Ground-based and Airborne Telescopes V, 91452V (22 July 2014); doi: 10.1117/12.2056976; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2056976

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