Spacecraft must withstand and operate successfully in the harsh environment of outer space, necessitating structural subsystems that can support any forces generated during launch and ascent of its rocket engine.
Spacecraft require propulsion systems in order to change their trajectory and maneuver around space, as well as power sources, communications devices and payload capabilities in order to fulfill their missions successfully.
Spacecraft structures provide rigid support to house instruments and satellite subsystems during launch, including under the stress of launch. Attached moving mechanisms like motors and reaction wheels help the spacecraft achieve its mission objectives.
The structural system of a rocket or spacecraft consists of its frame and shell, plus any brackets, closeout panels or deployable components that may be attached. Structures must withstand forces like steady acceleration; acoustic, random and sinusoidal vibration; mechanical shock; pressure profiles generated during different stages of flight.
Smallsat structures must fulfill specifications for physical properties (density and thermal expansion) as well as mechanical properties (modulus, strength and toughness). Metals tend to be more homogeneous and isotropic than non-metals; resin 3D printing technology has made rapid advancements towards producing structures with isotropic yet compliant qualities; AMRO Fabricating has taken advantage of these advances to develop Isogrid and Orthogrid patterns suitable for space applications utilizing these advances for their forming and machining processes.
Electronics in spacecraft and satellites are responsible for all communication, flight control, propulsion system monitoring and other essential functions – without them, they would render a spaceship or aerospace system completely inoperable.
Spacecrafts must be capable of handling the temperature changes encountered in space, while also conserving fuel and power resources. This is achieved by activating cooling mechanisms when temperatures become too hot, or by employing heating systems when temperatures become too low.
These processes require sophisticated power electronic devices that are designed to operate across a range of temperatures and provide power for sensors, computers, and motors on spacecraft. This requires high-reliability semiconductors that meet military temperature specifications while being free from whiskers, lead, tin, copper and aluminum composition and free from whiskers, lead or tin inclusions – creating new opportunities for COTS (commercial off the shelf) products to fulfill aerospace applications at lower cost than custom made solutions.
Spacecraft require propulsion in order to move through space, change directions and eventually land on planets or moons. Propulsion systems range from simple hydrazine thrusters like those found on Gaia and Lisa Pathfinder satellites, or more complex ion drives such as those used by ESA’s SMART-1 and bepi-Colombo missions – specific impulse (Isp) measures how quickly speed can change with fixed amounts of propellant mass.
However, conservation of momentum prohibits altering a spacecraft’s momentum without also altering other things–which uses up valuable reaction mass. Luckily, electric propulsion systems are increasingly feasible and can greatly extend mission lifespan; Maxar’s Electra spacecraft uses Isp-efficient solar-powered electric propulsion to explore an asteroid named (16) Psyche in deep space.
Life support systems on spacecraft (commonly referred to as ECLSSs or physico chemical life-support systems, for short) provide astronauts with essential elements for survival in outer space, including air, water, food, stable body temperatures and pressure, waste product removal as well as protection from external influences like radiation or micrometeorites.
Space life support systems also recycle oxygen and carbon dioxide, while managing any volatile chemicals released by people. They help ensure an atmosphere suitable for human life within the International Space Station by keeping ammonia and acetone concentrations under safe levels.
Life support systems involve complex interdependencies between machines. From the pioneering systems that cooled and supplied air on Gemini space capsules to the cutting-edge Environment Control and Life Support System on board the International Space Station, Honeywell is proud of having contributed its state-of-the-art spacecraft parts in their development.