As a world leader in space transportation and satellite systems, Astrium boasts some of the most advanced design, manufacturing and test facilities in the industry. With locations throughout Europe, the USA, Africa, and Asia the group includes the Portsmouth – UK based Astrium Ltd, specialising in advanced payloads for communications, navigation and Earth observation satellites.
To enable this focused and extremely demanding work, LG Motion Ltd was recently commissioned by Astrium to supply a custom-designed support structure to automate the positioning of large microwave components for integration testing, calibration and tuning of microwave transmitters integrated on satellites. Ultimately the assembly, known as a PCT Support System, is used to optimise the quality and consistency within the satellite manufacturing processes that Astrium has developed.
The mobile structure can support and vertically position off-centre loads of up 20 kg with a resolution and extreme sensitivity under operator guided push-button control – over a travel range of 2400 mm with pre-set speeds of 0.1mm/sec and 10 mm/sec. Much of the structure was completed with standard aluminium machine framing components from MiniTec UK Ltd – who work very closely with LG Motion on such projects. With an overall height of 3.6 metres and width/depth of 1.5 metres, the structure includes a microstepping motor driven custom-designed linear actuator with a fine leadscrew drive and two parallel linear rail bearings supporting the large test-piece mounting plate. Further aluminium framing components brace the assembly and outrigger supports with adjustable feet are also included to ensure stability for overhung loads.
The control system is based around the Arcus Technology ACE-SDE series intelligent microstepping drive, pre-programmed for manual pushbutton control. Arcus is exclusively represented by LG Motion Ltd as one of a select number of global distribution partners that provide state-of-the-art motion control components. The single-axis controller + drive provides I/O interfacing and RS232/485 or Modbus communication with an easy to use interface and programmable S-curve acceleration profile that suits large load positioning.
As you would expect from test equipment that is used in conjunction with such high-end components where quality needs to be exceptional, the specification ensures an equally exceptional level of reliability, performance and safety. The assembly includes a lockable control cabinet and a dead man’s switch arrangement for maximum operational safety along with a flashing amber safety beacon during operator control. The leadscrew and bearings are lubrication free to ensure zero contamination of the components on test. With full EMC and LVD testing and documentation supplied, Astrium included on-site inspection of the assembly at LG Motion’s production site before installation at its Portsmouth facility.