Space-Bound Hardware Testing 

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Aerospace companies continually develop cutting-edge technologies destined for space. From propulsion systems to life support equipment, the hardware designed for space missions must undergo testing to ensure reliability, durability, and performance in the harsh environment of space. 

In this blog, we look at the critical importance of space-bound hardware testing and the methodologies employed by aerospace engineers to prepare innovations for the final frontier. 

Pre-space Testing and Why it Matters

Space presents a harsh environment, characterized by extreme temperatures, vacuum conditions, radiation exposure, and microgravity. Hardware destined for space missions must withstand these challenges while operating flawlessly to ensure mission success. Therefore, testing space-bound hardware thoroughly on Earth is important to ensure it works well and lasts before sending it into space.  

Methodologies for Space Hardware Testing:

Aerospace engineers employ a variety of methodologies to test hardware destined for space missions, including: 

  • Environmental Testing
  • Vibration Testing, Radiation Testing
  • Functional Testing
  • Endurance Testing 

At IO Aerospace, we focus on payload testing involving flying sensors on jets as it is a high-altitude platform which offers flexibility and control over the testing environment while providing useful information about sensor performance and realistic data. This approach allows us to gather valuable data on sensor functionality and accuracy in a real-world setting, providing insights that are not easily achievable through ground-based testing alone. Moreover, it enables the early acquisition of real data from your sensor system, which in turn informs the development of downstream processing requirements. This data also serves as compelling evidence for your investors and clients. 

Additionally, utilizing our Learjet platform significantly reduces costs associated with acquiring authentic data. This enables you to obtain real data sooner, as opposed to simulated data, and at a fraction of the cost and time required for space missions. Moreover, the flexibility afforded by our platform allows for the testing of riskier hardware and quicker iteration cycles compared to space missions, where stringent reliability requirements must be met. By leveraging our platform, you can take calculated risks and explore innovative solutions, ultimately reducing the cost of technology iteration and testing. 

Case Study: Our Project with MethaneAIR

MethaneSAT launched the MethaneAIR system on the IO Learjet in June 2023, deploying advanced technology on IO Aerospace’s specially equipped Learjet to track methane emissions across North America. This complements the MethaneSAT satellite launch in March 2024, with the aim of helping both industry and regulators reduce methane emissions, a significant contributor to global warming. Data from both aircraft and satellite will be freely available, offering actionable insights for emission reduction efforts.  

Between May and October, our IO Special Missions Platform travelled an impressive 188,251 kilometers, covering over 750,000 square kilometers for the MethanAIR mission. Our Learjet can achieve collection rates of over 10,000 square kilometers in a single flight. With an endurance of over 5 hours and the ability to fly at altitudes up to 45,000 feet, it offers unparalleled flexibility and efficiency in conducting missions and testing at high altitudes.  

MethaneAIR employs sensitive instruments to detect methane emissions at a regional scale, enabling the determination of total emissions over wide areas, including both large and numerous small sources. These smaller sources play a significant role in methane emissions. The initial focus was on oil and gas facilities in key regions, such as Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico. 

In conclusion, payload testing on our Learjet offers an invaluable benefit: iteration. By testing sensors before launching them into space, our clients have the time and flexibility to iterate and refine their designs without significant financial commitments. Looking ahead, we’re excited about what the future holds – new satellites, new missions, and endless opportunities for exploration and discovery. 

Read more: What We Do and Who We Are

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