Facilities Available to the
Small Satellite Program
SDL’s facilities—which include a state-of-the-art
computing facility, a modern, comprehensive machine shop, class-100
clean rooms with full contamination control services, optical design
laboratories, high-bay integration areas, environmental test facilities,
NIST-qualified calibration and characterization facilities, a spacecraft
command and control center, and laboratories for full optical, mechanical,
and electrical system design and assembly—provide all of the
capabilities necessary to design and fabricate custom systems in-house.
This enables a high degree of flexibility to meet customers’
design needs while reducing system costs.
SDL’s large-scale THOR calibration facility’s
test chamber includes LN2 shrouds, an optical table for
sensor mounting, and supplemental helium cooling capability.
Twenty-four laboratory areas are dedicated for
thermal analysis and modeling, and electronic, optical, and mechanical
assembly and testing. The main SDL complex also houses a space simulation
laboratory which has a small-satellite attitude control system test
facility with a 3-axis instrumented bearing table and Sun (optical)
and Earth (infrared) models.
A new facility at SDL, the Thermal Optical Research
(THOR) infrared sensor chamber, is a large-scale calibration facility
that features cryogenic capabilities and enables performance of
thermal vacuum environmental testing and space simulation. The 8’
x 12’ chamber allows SDL to test and calibrate completely
assembled systems such as small satellites and optical sensors.
SDL’s environmental testing equipment includes
a state-of-the-art shake fixture assembly.
SDL’s 860 ft 2 environmental testing facility
includes a 6,000 lb capacity vibration and shock table, a 2-ton
crane, a dynamic spin balancing facility, and several cold-wall
(LN2) thermal vacuum chambers for component testing, including a
hard space vacuum. The SDL integration high bay supports the use
of portable clean room tents and offers two 5-ton capacity cranes.
SDL’s RF-shielded semi-anechoic chamber is
available for emissions and susceptibility (EMI/EMC) testing of
various electronic hardware and instruments per the MIL-STD 461E
standard. The chamber can be used for conducted emissions, conducted
susceptibility, radiated emissions, and radiated susceptibility
testing to the MIL-STD specifications.
SDL’s in-house machine shop offers over
5000 ft 2 of modern fabrication equipment.
SDL’s comprehensive, 5000 ft 2 machine shop
is equipped with a two-ton bridge crane and provides computer numeric
control (CNC) machine capability, computer-aided precision machining
(CAM), new state-of-the-art 3-dimensional milling machines and a
crane-equipped indoor storage area. SDL carries a wide variety of
materials in-house in order to meet immediate requests and tight
The SDL machine shop has two Coordinate Measuring
Machines (CMM) that provide the ability to make precision measurements
(<0.001") in three-dimensions of mechanical and optical
assemblies. One CMM is located near the machine shop to allow critical
dimensions of machined parts to be verified. The other CMM is housed
in a class 100 cleanroom. It is used to do the initial positioning
and alignment of optical components in mechanical structures. It
can be used to measure the accumulation of tolerance errors (stackup
errors) for systems as they are being built up.
SDL offers state-of-the-art electronics fabrication
facilities and highly trained staff.
Engineers at SDL have been building and modeling
flight electronics since 1949. We are able to fully analyze analog
and digital circuit designs, as well as perform Monte Carlo-type
component tolerance effect analyses. SDL has successfully designed,
modeled and built flight data compression encoder cards capable
of transmission speeds in excess of 1 GHz in operational systems.
Tools commonly used at SDL include Mentor Graphics Analog Simulator,
Cadence PSPICE, Modelsim VHDL Simulator, Mentor Graphics IS Floorplanner
for circuit board layout modeling and analysis, and FPA Simulator,
an SDL product that creates a virtual focal plane array with hardware
SDL has performed space-qualified electronics design,
fabrication, functional and environmental testing, and ground test
equipment and software development for many projects including the
Spatial IR Imaging Telescope (SPIRIT III), SABER and over 400 other
NASA-certified, surface mount technology and vapor
phase soldering facilities at SDL enable state-of-the-art design
SDL recently opened a composite manufacturing facility
in conjunction with the Industrial Technology Department at Utah
State University. This facility is capable of manufacturing composite
parts to be used in flight programs. Development work is underway
to utilize viscoelastic damping characteristics in composites at
This composites lab includes the capabilities to
lay up parts of both a cylindrical and a flat nature, and the capability
to machine the additional tooling necessary for more complex parts
should cylinder or plate designs not be feasible. The lab’s
facilities include a curing oven, a temperature and pressure controlled
autoclave, and a clean area to lay-up composite parts to be used
on programs that are contamination sensitive, and a finishing area
where painting etc. can take place. Post-manufacturing capabilities
include machining parts to meet specifications and a comprehensive
testing facility for ultimate strengths, void content, shaker table,
and thermal effects.
SDL has state-of-the-art capabilities for the design,
fabrication, and validation of contamination-sensitive space hardware.
Facilities include a precision cleaning laboratory, several class-100
cleanrooms, and a class-10,000 integration high bay with class 100
tents for payload integration. A 100 ft long optical cleanroom recently
came on line in SDL’s Calibration and Optical Research Laboratory.
SDL has extensive experience in meeting the stringent
contamination control requirements of cryogenic infrared telescopes
that must maintain high stray light rejection performance. SDL also
possesses the expertise to predict and validate optical scatter
performance that can be degraded by particulate contamination. SDL
developed and operates a dedicated off-axis scatter facility (the
“Black Hole”) that is used to verify performance. A
portable BRDF (Bi-directional Reflectance Distribution Function)
measurement station is used to make field measurements of the primary
mirror scatter on integrated telescopes. These measurements are
used to ensure that the scatter produced by accumulated particulate
contamination levels have not exceeded performance requirements.
Particulate count and spectral reflectivity measurements on witness
mirrors are also used.
SDL has multiple state-of-the art class-100 clean
rooms for a variety of integration, calibration and test
SDL’s radiometric calibration group is also
equipped to identify contamination-related anomalies during spectral
responsivity calibration measurements of assembled sensors.
SDL calibrates and characterizes sensors developed
both at SDL and out-of-house.
SDL has characterized the performance of instruments
for such major programs as Infrared Background Signature Survey
(IBSS), Cryogenic IR Radiance Instrumentation for Shuttle (CIRRIS
1A), Brilliant Eyes Proof-of-Principle (BEPoP), SPIRIT III, and
Miniature Sensor Technology Integration (MSTI III). These calibrations
extend to celestial IR sources and calibration sources contained
within the instrument telescopes. SDL also has facilities to calibrate
and characterize visible sensor systems.
SDL maintains a dedicated calibration staff to
achieve continuity in this very specialized area and hosts an annual
Infrared Calibration Symposium in cooperation with the National
Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
SDL designed and developed three Multifunction
Infrared Calibrators (MIC) and the associated cryogenic IR sensor
calibration equipment. Each calibrator integrates several optical
functions into a single, cryogenically cooled dewar that is coupled
to the sensor’s front end. The calibrators provide steerable
point sources and diffuse full-aperture illumination with selectable
wavelength and intensity to simulate actual on-orbit measurement
conditions. SDL’s calibration facility incorporates computer
sampling and handling of large data sets from complex sensor arrays
with their housekeeping data. In addition, SDL’s “Black
Hole” black cleanroom facility is available for collecting
low scatter measurements and was used to measure the off-axis rejection
properties of JPL’s Cassini narrow field camera.
SDL has NIST traceable standard blackbody (radiation)
that is used as a local reference for our other sources. Additionally,
SDL has NIST traceable (temperature) extended blackbody sources
ranging in size from 6” to 24” that have been tested
from 20 K to 400 K, and a series of warm blackbody sources (290
K – 1200 K), which are also traceable to NIST.
Utah State University established the Space Systems
Analysis Laboratory (SSAL), a state-of-the-art conceptual design
center similar to design centers at government agencies such as
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Goddard Space Flight
Center as well as the center at The Aerospace Corporation. Characterized
by high levels of synergy, extensive interaction, and real time
integrated efforts, SSAL has streamlined the process of space systems
design, allowing for quicker end-to-end mission designs and feasibility
studies that are both cheaper and of higher quality due to the more
efficient use of personnel and technology resources. The core of
the SSAL facility consists of nine PCs, connected together through
a LAN and file sharing server, each one outfitted with a full set
of tools for space systems design. Table 1 shows the tools used
in the SSAL.
1 : SSAL’s Space System Design Tools
Kit (STK), Free Flyer
Small Satellite Assembly Facility
of USUsat II structure