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Redesign, manufacture and testing of accelerometers for non-gravitional forces measurement on board of ESA Swarm mission

Czech accelerometers on European Swarm satellite

Project duration: 2006 to 2012

Project manager: Radek Peřestý

The goal of Czech participation on Swarm project was to upgrade the accelerometer used in national space projects for ESA program. The instrument was modified by project Swarm requirements and three models were manufactured in accordance with ESA applicable standards. The accelerometers are used for non-gravitational forces detection during Swarm precise Earth magnetic field measurements.

The instrument is based on detection of relative motion of test mass (inserted in measurement cavity) and satellite body. The satellite surface force is derived from the position change and magnitude of force needed for test mass holding in the cavity center. For precise position detection the capacitance principle is used and electrostatic force controls test mass position.

The accelerometer consists of two main blocks: acceleration detector and electronic block. Sensor contains cubic cavity and tightly fitting cube of about three centimeters size. This assembly is inserted into metallic cage fixing components position with micrometer accuracy during lift-off and space environment operation.

Electronic block provides all instrument electrical, communication and software functions. It contains 10 printed circuit boards of 150 x 150 mm size. The accelerometer has its own 12 W power source, control unit based on 80C32 processor and operational software of 64KiB size. All electronic components are of space quality – highest operation temperature range, vacuum and radiation hardiness.

The instrument is designed to measure accelerations less than 10-4 ms-2 with accuracy below 10-8 ms-2 and in bandwidth 10-1 to 10-4 Hz. The unit dimensions are 180 x 210 x 360 mm and mass 6,5 kg. Instrument is designed for 4,5 year operation lifetime.

Aeronautical Research and Test Institute (ARTE)

The Institute is a national centre for research, development and testing in aeronautics and astronautics. The main mission of VZLÚ is to generate new knowledge, transfer it into industrial practice and to provide its partners with the maximum support in the development of new products. As a multidiscipline research organisation, VZLÚ exploits synergic effects and also contributes to progress of automotive, rail, defence, security and power industry and civil engineering. The major multidisciplinary fields of VZLÚ include: aerodynamics, structure strength and durability, material and corrosion engineering, composite materials and technologies, accredited testing and space instruments for satellites. VZLÚ collaborates closely with similar organisations throughout Europe to provide feedback necessary for its continuous development.

What would you name as main benefits of the project to you and your company?

“The participation in Swarm project enabled us to apply and expand our knowledge gained in development of previous accelerometers. The project helped us to train a team of specialists in space engineering disciplines and capable to work on demanding ESA space projects. We have gained necessary skills for participation in European space program during the cooperation with EADS Astrium.”