Custom-designed support structure developed for a space satellite component test rig
Published: 5 July 2013 - Rachael Morling
The UK based division of Astrium in Portsmouth specialises in advanced payloads for communications, navigation and Earth observation satellites.
The company recently commissioned LG Motion to supply a custom-designed support structure to automate the positioning of large microwave components for integration testing, calibration and tuning of microwave transmitters integrated on satellites. Ultimately the assembly, known as a PCT Support System, is used to optimise the quality and consistency within the satellite manufacturing processes that Astrium has developed.
The mobile structure can support and vertically position off-centre loads of up 20kg with a resolution and extreme sensitivity under operator guided push-button control, over a travel range of 2400 mm with pre-set speeds of 0.1mm/sec and 10mm/sec. Much of the structure was completed with standard aluminium machine framing components from MiniTec UK.
With an overall height of 3.6m and width/depth of 1.5m, the structure includes a microstepping motor driven custom-designed linear actuator with a fine leadscrew drive and two parallel linear rail bearings supporting the large test-piece mounting plate. Further aluminium framing components brace the assembly and outrigger supports with adjustable feet are also included to ensure stability for overhung loads.
The control system is based around the Arcus Technology ACE-SDE series intelligent microstepping drive, pre-programmed for manual pushbutton control. The single-axis controller + drive provides I/O interfacing and RS232/485 or Modbus communication with an easy to use interface and programmable S-curve acceleration profile that suits large load positioning.
The assembly includes a lockable control cabinet and a dead man’s switch arrangement for maximum operational safety along with a flashing amber safety beacon during operator control. The leadscrew and bearings are lubrication free to ensure zero contamination of the components on test.