Our new thermal vacuum cycling facility dubbed VaB (for Vacuum boiler) has arrived. This special vacuum chamber has been custom designed by Vacutech (Delft, the Netherlands ). It will serve to perform both lifetime and acceptance tests on our Sunsensors. The arrival was celebrated by a toast to express the hope the system will reliably serve us for many years to come.
As all of our sensors have a similar mounting pattern it was possible to design a dedicated hotplate that can hold up to 9 sensors at the same time. The sensors are bolted to the hotplate to ensure a good thermal contact and allow for a fast ramp rate during testing. In case we need to test something special, the hotplate also holds a pattern of larger bold locations that can be used to connect an intermediate test adapter. The test setup is equipped with two 25 pole sub-D connectors to allow testing the sensors while thermal cycling and last but not least a special port has been added that can hold a special multi-fibre optical feedthrough we plan to use while testing our digital Sunsensors under development.
All in all a small but potent test setup that expands the independence of Lens R&D as an independent high reliability Sunsensor supplier. The setup has already led to a close cooperation with a new supplier. Vacutech (www.vacutech.nl) has shown to be very knowledgeable about vacuum technology, flexible and pro-active. Consequently we are looking forward to a prolonged cooperation in the field of vacuum testing and potentially even beyond.
The first activities foreseen for this setup consist of a lifetime test program that is intended to show survivability of our Sunsensors for the ESA Proba-3 mission.
In this program, the sensors will see 1000 cycles between -40°C and +80°C followed by another 1000 thermal cycles between -45°C and +105°C.
After this lifetime program, the system will be used to perform acceptance TVAC cycles on every sensor we deliver to ensure we only deliver sensors that adhere to the highest quality standards.