Thermal Vacuum Testing

Space Simulation

TV-25 System

Testing in a thermal vacuum chamber is a requirement for compliance with a variety of regulatory standards in the aerospace and defense industries. Thermal vacuum testing has been employed since the beginning of the U.S. space program as a way of mitigating risk and preparing for the extreme temperatures encountered at orbit.

NTS’s thermal vacuum testing services have been used in preparation for both manned and unmanned spaceflight. We have worked directly with government agencies and associated contractors to develop and maintain accurate, controlled conditions suitable for performing thermal tests. 

High Vacuum 

With over 50 years experience in testing aerospace components, subassemblies and systems, NTS has developed an extensive body of practical knowledge about handling high value hardware, safeguarding it while at our labs and making sure that the tests are run perfectly every time, eliminating unnecessary test reruns on one of a kind equipment.

NTS operates several chambers designed specifically to meet the stringent demands of space simulation. The high thermal vacuum chambers and their immediate surroundings are controlled environments with some of our chambers qualifying as Class 10000 cleanrooms. The chambers simulate high altitude/space environments with the main parameters of:

  • High Vacuum: 1 x 10-7 Torr (2 x 10-9 psi)
  • Cold Space: -285°F (-175°C)
  • Sun Radiation (IR): Up to +150

Chambers sizes range from 15' x 25' units to an economical 12 in. diameter for rapid testing of small components. Temperatures range from -285°F (-175°C) up to +700°F (+375°C). Our larger thermal vacuum chambers employ LN2 full shroud for cooling and IR heating. Instrumentation includes up to 300 channels mixed; voltage, thermal couple, RTD, strain, resistance and current. TQCM, CQCM and RGA analysis is available. Pressure ranges to below 1 x 10-7 Torr (2 x 10-9 psi) are available. Pumping systems cover roughing (oil free or with molecular trap) and high vacuum (turbo molecular or cryogenic).

While NTS high vacuum space simulation facilities have primarily performed testing on sophisticated solar panels, antennas and satellite parts, the high vacuum/temperature environment inhibits heat dissipation and exaggerates the reaction of trapped gases within any product, discovering faults before field use.

TV-25 Test System 

The TV-25 is our largest facility; specially designed, built and operated for thermal vacuum testing of customer flight hardware. It consists of two control rooms, one of which is exclusively dedicated for customer usage. Two adjoining clean rooms (class 100K and 10K) are offered for specimen inspection and pre-assembly. The facility also holds a 3-ton crane within the 100K clean room, two gowning areas and two uninterruptable power sources, both connected to an automatically engaged back up generator.

Vacuum chamber specifications:

  • 15' diameter x 25' depth with a working diameter of 13' x 24'
  • 10-7 torr achieved
  •  -285°F (-175°C) up to +700°F (+375°C)
  •  Two large capacity roughing pumps which can be operated individually for backup
  • Four 48" cyropumps which can be operated individually or together
  • Turbo pump, RGA, TQCM and temperature recording

Specimen loading infrastructure:

  • Air bearing supported 9' x 12' x 6" specimen buildup cart capable of supporting 40,000 lbs. with a working heigh of 40"
  • Cart designed to same height as chamber specimen support rails for easy push into vacuum chamber

Power and emergency power specifications:

  • 500kVA 3-phase 480/277V emergency generator providing automatic emergency power to critical vacuum chamber components, controls, cleanrooms, and customer equipment
  • 160kVA 3-phase 480/277V UPS providing uninterruptable power to critical chamber components
  • 3kVA 120V UPS providing uninterruptable power to control room
  • Two 3-phase 208/120V 200A Crouse-Hinds receptacle for customer support

100K clean room specifications:

  • 30' x 60' x 23.5' (H)
  • 3-ton bridge crane with 18' hook height
  • 21°c to +5°c temperature range
  • 30 - 60% RH max

10K clean room specifications:

  • 26' x 34' x 17' (H)
  • 23°c to +2°c temperature range
  • 30 - 55% RH max

Control room specifications:

  • Real time vacuum control and feedback systems
    • Operation of Expert Mode for vacuum control
    • Thermal control
    • Inter-logic control for safe operation
    • Display of pressure and temperature in graphical format
    • Display operation input and output status
    • Simulation to modify the state of feedback for custom operation
    • Display activity log
  • Temperature control systems
    • 56 zones for Quartz heater control
    • 11 LN2 PID control loops for shroud and cold plates
    • Automatic detection and reassignment of failed control temperature sensors
    • Custom CAD simulation of test specimen and chamber with real-time, color-changing temperature indicators in actual (approximate) locations make it easy to find any temperature anomaly
    • Popup real-time data charts (Up to 50) with customizable channel group selection, and automatic tabbed graphing of Hi/Low, Delta, and Average for each selected group add to the ease monitoring
    • Adjustable High/Low alarms and Lamp shutdown limits
    • Custom temperature profiles with zone offsets for custom adjustment and operation
    • Greater than 1Hz data acquisition if required
  • Data logging systems
    • 256 channels for temperature and pressure
    • Active operator event data logging
  • Graphical control display
    • 12 LCD monitors

Class 10000 Cleanroom Facility

At its Class 10000 cleanroom facility, NTS operates a vacuum bake-out chamber specifically used for removing moisture and out-gassing components from seals, bladders, enclosed space related hardware such as satellite fuel tanks and a large group of various space and high tech products that will be subjected to a high vacuum, high temperature, clean environment.

Standards

Spacecraft and associated hardware components require extensive thermal vacuum testing to properly prepare for extreme environmental conditions. As an American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA)-accredited organization,NTS tests to specifications including MIL-STD-202, MIL-STD-810, RTCA/DO-160. We can also tailor any high vacuum/temperature test to your requirements, enabling you to bring to market only durable, reliable equipment.

For the convenience of our partners, we maintain a network of thermal vacuum testing labs across the country. One of our in-house engineers can assess your requirements and direct you to the lab with the appropriate thermal test chambers to get the job done properly.Contact NTS today to find out how to get your product tested!