FASTRAC Satellite Completes Thermal/Vacuum Test
January 3, 2005
FASTRAC Satellite 1 completed a rigorous Thermal/Vacuum (T/V) test during the week before Christmas in a specially designed chamber at NASA's Johnson Space Center. FASTRAC-1 performed flawlessly, providing telemetry and responding to radio commands throughout, and the 3-day test was completed with no anomalies and no resets. University of Texas undergraduate and graduate students got the opportunity to work alongside professional NASA technicians and engineers during the test.
NASA's JSC generously agreed to donate their facilities and expertise in an educational outreach activity to enable the FASTRAC student team to test their hardware at a professional space facility. The FASTRAC hardware was treated the same as all flight hardware that is routinely tested at JSC. The student team was first subjected to a pretest review in front of a panel of NASA experts. Following the review, the three day test commenced on Dec. 20-22.
The FASTRAC-1 satellite, which had recently completed integration, was pulled to a hard vacuum of <0.1 millitorr (approximately one millionth the atmospheric pressure at sea level) and saw a series of environmental temperature cycles from a cold case of -121 degrees F to a hot case of +141 degrees F (NASA thermal tests are performed using the Fahrenheit temperature scale). These pressure and temperature extremes are designed to re-create the operational environment that the satellite will see in space.
The satellite performed perfectly with all subsystems operating nominally during the entire test. It was noted that the most temperature-sensitive components, the batteries, exceeded their maximum operating temperature by about 10 degrees F during the hot case, but it is believed that this can be accommodated by slightly reducing the thermal blanketing material inside the satellite, allowing more radiative cooling to occur.
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