This article gives an overview of Thermal Vacuum Chambers (TVACs) on the global marketplace for space.
It discusses what the technology is used for and how to make the best choice for your space hardware testing, before giving an overview of the commercially-available products on the market today.
If you’re familiar with the technology and would like to skip straight to the product listings, please click here.
Introduction to Thermal Vacuum Chambers
Thermal Vacuum Chamber, or TVACs, are vitally important in the development of any space mission or service. The environment of space is harsh and requires hardware capable of withstanding extremely low pressures and a wide temperature range, when launch is factored in.
Space missions are also highly risky and often require significant amounts of pre-launch testing and validation in order to satisfy regulatory compliance and mission planning criteria, insurance considerations, and other such criteria.
Thermal vacuum qualification enables teams to identify systems, components, interfaces, or other design issues that need to be updated or changed before launch. This can save engineering time, and cost, as well as de-risk aspcects of the mission. TVAC analysis is typically mandatory for launch vehicle operators, rideshare partners, agency programmes, and upstream clients.
A Thermal Vacuum Chamber simulates some of the environmental conditions of space, but without us needing to leave the planet.
It removes air, creating a vacuum of around 1×10^(−6) mbar or lower, and also enables thermal cycling across a wide temperature range, often around -180ºC to +300ºC, or higher.
You might need TVAC testing as part of the development of a new commercial subsystem, for an entire satellite, or for the ongoing validation of different component setups.
There are different chamber setups and sizes available depending on your requirements, as well as different testing approaches to use.
Choosing the right TVAC for your mission
When selecting any piece of technology for a space mission it is important to be aware of costs, lead times, integration and testing requirements, as well as the physical requirements of your system.
In addition, here are some of the key performance criteria to consider when assessing TVAC testing options for your mission or service:
- Required validation data – the type and volume of testing data required for effective validation (including format, confidence level, security/confidentiality etc.)
- Rent vs. contract lab vs purchase – it is possible to rent a TVAC device, transport your DUT to a contract facility, or purchase and own a TVAC. This choice will come down to your requirements, or preferences on, price, lead time, availability, asset management, and similar factors
- Required temperature and pressure range – the TVAC you select must be capable of analyzing your hardware across the required temperature range and down to the vacuum level needed to meet your verification standards.
- Chamber size – the chamber size and dimensions must fit the hardware and any additional equipment you wish to test.
- Loading considerations – if you require certain conditions for loading for flight hardware tests and bakeouts, e.g. via class 8 clean tent, you must ensure the TVAC can meet those needs.
- Testing standard adherence – the system or facility that you utilize for analyzing hardware must meet the compliance requirements your mission demands.
TVACs on the global market
In the list below we have rounded up a range of commercially-available thermal vacuum chamber products and services for space missions. This list will be updated over time when new products are added to the global marketplace for space – so please check back for more or sign up for our mailing list to get all the updates.
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The Nanovac AB Galaxy TVC 025 - Thermal Vacuum Simulation Chamber is a clam-shell TVAC with configurable access ports. It features an easy access test chamber equipped with a thermal test table and thermal shroud.
The Nanovac Galaxy µTVAC is a compact Thermal Vacuum Simulation Chamber designed for thermal testing purposes. The clam-shell thermal vacuum testing chamber (TVAC) features customizable access ports and a thermal test table.
The Nanovac Horizontal load chambers are designed to allow horizontal loading of the Device Under Test (DUT). Its inner diameter ranges from 500mm to several meters, depending on the end user's test requirements. The thermal test plate is installed on a sliding rail mechanism to simplify loading/unloading and setup of the test campaign.
Nanovac AB's Custom Thermal Vacuum Chamber (TVAC) development services enable space companies to create analysis systems to meet their specific needs. Nanovac has many years of experience in the design and manufacture of thermal testing components, devices, and systems for the space industry.
The Exobotics XO-VAC is a low-cost, desktop thermal vacuum chamber for CubeSats and small payload testing. XO-VAC simulates the extreme environmental conditions of space by exposing payloads to high vacuum across a wide temperature range.
ASTROFEIN offers a variety of mechanical and thermal tests in their Berlin environmental simulation laboratory. These include thermal vacuum tests in the temperature range 60°C to +150°C and in a vacuum environment down to 10^(-5) mbar.
TS-Space Systems' Rapid Thermal Cycling Chamber is an in-house TVAC configurable for a range of temperatures. The system can perform monitored vacuum bakeout or thermal vacuum cycling processes.
The Intlvac Space Simulation Deimos - TVAC1 is designed to validate operation under space vacuum conditions. The system is controlled by Intlvac’s Autosys PLC controller and the controls would be housed in a separate controls rack. Its controller handles automatic pump down, venting, temperature control, power failure recovery, and interlocks for safe operation. The user interface is through a LabView computer workstation with a 19” digital flat-screen monitor.
The Intlvac Space Simulation Aether - Vacuum Degassing is used for desgassing space components. It is designed for rapid and consecutive degassing of small components by holding them under a high vacuum while being baked by thermal radiation. The system is automatically controlled through a PLC LabView interface. It has a large optical viewport with an explosion guard fitted to the lid.
The Intlvac Space Simulation Phobos - TVAC2 is a versatile simulation system used for space applications. Its vacuum chamber is constructed from 304 stainless steel and the chamber is designed to provide an extensive environmental test complex to simulate outer space and varying thermal conditions. The product allows for a variety of parts to be tested in a high vacuum of less than 10-6 torr, which is a dry pumped and clean environment.
The Intlvac Space Simulation Ares - TVAC3 is designed to thermally cycle components while under high vacuum. The system achieves oil-free, high-vacuum pumping through a combination of vacuum pumps. Temperature cycling for the chamber shroud and platen is achieved by various methods. It uses a horizontal cylinder with access doors on either end. Each system has a large selection of instrumentation ports designed for the system users.
Weiss Technik Thermal Vacuum Chambers for space simulation is a TVAC system that reproduces outer space conditions. The chamber make it possible to conduct tests in a completely controlled environment. The pump systems can achieve a vacuum of down to 10-7 mbar.
Ideal Vacuum ExploraVAC Space Simulation TVAC is a thermal vacuum test chamber system. It mimics the extreme pressures and temperatures of outer space, with pressures down to 10-7 Torr and sample temperatures from -70 to +400 °C, accurate to ± 0.3°C, via a 23” × 23” thermally isolated platen.
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