Space Commerce

SSL’s New Thermal Vacuum Chamber Will Increase Production Capacity

By Marc Boucher
Status Report
August 7, 2013
Filed under ,
SSL’s New Thermal Vacuum Chamber Will Increase Production Capacity
New thermal vacuum chamber.
Space Systems/Loral

Space Systems/Loral (SSL), a leading provider of commercial satellites, today announced progress on a new Thermal Vacuum Chamber (TVC), which will increase the company’s production capacity and improve testing efficiency for satellite operators who need to meet aggressive procurement schedules.
In June the company successfully completed the assembly, installation, and placement of the TVC shell at its Palo Alto, California, satellite manufacturing facility. The chamber shell has currently completed preliminary pressure testing, and construction of the building in which it will be housed is underway.

“A second thermal vacuum chamber enhances our potential for growth–in support of our business strategy–and benefits our customers by ensuring schedule integrity throughout satellite testing,” said John Celli, president of SSL. “The project demonstrates our parent company, MDA’s commitment to the communications satellite business, and is one of numerous ways that they are helping us expand our business.”

The new front loading TVC, which has an internal diameter of 8.2-meters (27 feet) and is 15.2-meters (50 feet) long, will serve as a second spacecraft testing facility operating simultaneously with the existing TVC, which is affectionately known as the “Blue Pumpkin,” because of its shape and color. Having served SSL for more than four decades, it has an internal diameter of 7.9-meter (26 foot), and requires a 27.3-metric-ton (60,186 pound) crane to remove and replace its lid.

The ability to process two satellites through thermal vacuum testing in parallel, without leaving the Palo Alto campus, will enhance the way that SSL manages satellite production flow by allowing this multiple-week portion of satellite testing to be performed locally for two satellites simultaneously.

Simulating the extreme temperatures and vacuum conditions of space, a TVC provides critical preflight testing. During a satellite’s stay in the TVC, the RF electronics are operated while the spacecraft is exposed to test temperatures ranging from -180 degrees C (-292 degrees F) to +100 degrees C (+212 degrees F).

The new thermal vacuum chamber will begin service in the second half of 2014.

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.