Rugged Interconnects for Harsh Environments eBook

Outgassing of materials in space must be prevented; chemical substances emitted from components could lead to fogging of sensors and instruments or seepage of contaminants into cracks or internal gaps. Once again, the mission could be jeopardized. SOURCING INTERCONNECTS FOR SPACE Once the equipment is deployed, there is no opportunity to replace faulty interconnects, so it is essential to specify the most reliable and durable components for use in space environments. So that designers can trust their performance in field conditions, space-qualified connectors and cables are tested to withstand the rigors of this unique harsh environment. Additional reassurance can be provided with built-in shielding in connector backshells and cable braids to protect interconnects from cosmic radiation. USE CASE EXAMPLE A recent venture, on which Harwin worked with the Group of Astrodynamics for the Use of Space Systems (GAUSS), underlines the need for sourcing appropriate connectors and cabling. GAUSS is an established provider of microsatellites, and designs and manufactures satellite hardware. The Italian company’s UNISAT platform enables the in-orbit release of third-party pico/nanosatellites. Numerous CubeSats and PocketQubes are carried into space on each mission, and then deployed directly from a purpose-built spacecraft. This approach has made it much more convenient and cost-effective for academic research groups to undertake space- based experiments and monitoring work, as this allows “ridesharing” that can reduce the upfront expense normally associated with launch activities.

The UNISAT-7 pico/nanosatellite deployment platform from GAUSS (images courtesy of Gauss Srl)

The GAUSS team started work on the development of their latest UNISAT spacecraft with several key objectives. The most important of these was the ability to expand the payload capacity so that a greater quantity of CubeSats and PocketQubes could be deployed. The engineering team at GAUSS looked at ways to make UNISAT-7 construction lighter than the previous models, meaning more of the assigned launch mass could be taken up by the payload. For it to fit in the rocket, the UNISAT-7 spacecraft’s overall volume had to be kept as low as possible. Its total launch mass had to be below 32 kg. All the constituent electronics would be contained within an aerospace-grade aluminum honeycomb framework of 50 mm x 50 mm x 50 mm. This would have carbon fiber sheets attached to it. The spacecraft’s power would be generated by banks of photovoltaic panels mounted onto its exterior.


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