UCL Department of Space and Climate Physics


AIT Engineering Capabilities

Test Facility Thermal Control Systems 

The AIT group has extensive knowledge and experience in the design and build of thermal control systems for vacuum test facilities. The MSSL vacuum test facilities use MSSL designed and built thermal control systems 150°C to -250°C.

The thermal control systems include the safety systems required to ensure that hardware under test do not go above or below the non operating temperature limits.

In addition, any liquid nitrogen cooled systems also incorporate safety cut out systems to ensure cooling does not go out of limits during a power cut.

Vacuum Test Facility Design 

The AIT engineering group have extensive knowledge and experience in the design, specification, build and verification of bespoke vacuum test facilities ranging from:

  • Cryogenically cooled vacuum test facility for testing of focal plane arrays or charged couple devices. Theses test system typically operate from 50°C to -150°C.
  • Thermal vacuum and thermal balance test facilities for test of flight hardware that are subjected to thermal cycling between the hot and cold operating temperature limits of the hardware. These test systems typically operate from 80°C to -150°C and can have multiple thermal controlled elements operating independently of each other.
  • Materials screening vacuum chambers used for the screening of materials used in the construction of flight hardware. These test systems typically operate from 100°C to -100°C with temperature rate of change capabilities of 10°C per minute or greater.
  • Vacuum bakeout test facilities used for lowering the outgassing products of materials used in the construction of space flight hardware. The test systems typically operate from 20°C to 150°C.
Data Acquisition and Control Software

For MSSL test facilities it is sometimes necessary to design and develop data acquisition and control software when commercially off the shelf software is not suitable. In this case we will design, develop, verify software for vacuum and ambient atmospheric test systems using:

  • Python
  • Labview
  • Matlab

In addition to data acquisition, the AIT engineering group are experienced in Programmable logic Control (PLC) for simple or complex vacuum test facilities.

Assembly, integration and test 

In addition to space flight hardware assembly, integration and test the AIT engineering group have years of experience and knowledge of both ECSS and NASA standards which is practiced on a daily basis on all MSSL space flight hardware projects and in particular:

  • Development of test specifications for flight hardware test requirements.
  • Test procedure development, implementation and management.
  • Contamination control protocol development, implementation and management
  • Concept design and prototype evaluation of test systems and flight hardware in conjunction with mechanical and thermal and electronics engineering groups.