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ESA's water mission instrument passes test program

next testing procedure when the instrument was placed in the Large European Acoustic Facility. Here the tremendous noise and vibrations levels that are expected to be experienced under the launcher's fairing were simulated.

Temperature extremes

Having survived the acoustic tests, the instrument was transferred to the Large Space Simulator. This is a massive vacuum chamber where the extreme temperature differences of space are simulated. A solar beam, six metres in diameter, was repeatedly shone onto the instrument and then the instrument was subjected to extreme cold similar to that of deep space. Not only does the payload need to function properly under these extremes, the thermal environment and temperature distribution across the body of the three arms is an important factor for MIRAS's overall measurement performance. For the test to be meaningful, the instrument's three arms had to be fully deployed suspended like a string puppet it just fitted into the 10-metre diameter chamber. These thermal tests continued around the clock for almost 3 weeks.

Testing images

Finally, the instrument was set up in what is called the Maxwell Facility for two types of tests the electromagnetic compatibility test, which makes sure that nothing is disturbed when, for example, the data downlink is activated, and the image validation test, which is where an artificial source mounted on the ceiling is 'imaged' by the instrument under different conditions. In addition, tests were performed on the algorithms and software for the Level 1 processor, which converts digital counts into pictures for scientists to derive information on soil moisture and ocean salinity.

The engineers and scientists involved in this intensive testing programme are extremely pleased with the results and the MIRAS instrument is now in the process of being packed up for delivery to Thales Alenia Space (formerly Alcatel Alenia Space) in Cannes, where it wi
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Contact: Achim Hahne
Achim.Hahne@esa.int
31-715-653-609
European Space Agency
8-Jun-2007


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