NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center is using a 4-by-8-foot vacuum chamber to test components of a sensor package that will support the planned 2018 Solar Probe Plus mission that aims to send a spacecraft into the sun’s atmosphere.
The agency said Tuesday the High Intensity Solar Environment Test system works to simulate extreme conditions in space and subject test objects to artificial sunlight and charged particles as if they were near the sun.
“Space throws heat, it throws cold, it throws radiation, UV, plasma and more, all at one time and there are synergistic effects,” said Todd Schneider, a physicist at Marshall and principal investigator for the HISET technology.
For Solar Probe Plus, NASA is requiring the integrated payload to withstand heat of approximately 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, streams of charged particles and radiation blasts.
The agency added it is also using HISET to test the center’s Lightweight Integrated Solar Array and Transceiver project that looks to support power and communication needs of small satellites without solar tracking systems.
Marshall’s test facilities are used by the Defense Department, federal agencies, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory, research organizations and commercial aerospace and satellite communications providers, NASA said.
The center’s space environmental effects team also tests metals and materials used by the International Space Station, subsequently supporting future deep space and journey to Mars missions.