Putting the First High Throughput Satellite to the Test

By Peter Huang, Senior Manager, Space Systems Acquisition

First in a series from Intelsat team members overseeing the construction and launch of Intelsat 29e, the first Intelsat EpicNG® high throughput satellite, set to be launched in early 2016.

At Intelsat, we will be marking each milestone as we embark on the countdown to the launch of our first Intelsat EpicNG® satellite, Intelsat 29e (IS-29e). Recently, Boeing, the manufacturer of the satellite, successfully completed a series of thermal vacuum and deployment tests.

In this series of tests, three aspects are examined:
1. The reflectors are deployed before being exposed to acoustics and vibration to confirm that they function as designed.
2. The reflectors are then stowed and the entire satellite is exposed to vibration and acoustics simulating the launch experience.
3. The reflectors are then deployed again to verify that nothing was damaged or degraded.

The tests can be seen in this short video clip.

In general, all spacecraft testing follows this procedure: testing before environments to show it is working, exposure to environments and then testing after exposure to environments to show that nothing was affected adversely.

If we just exposed the satellite to environments and then tested it, and the test failed, we wouldn’t know if it was the exposure to environments that made it fail or something else (e.g. a component installed incorrectly). This is why we have pre-environmental testing.

Pictured first is the pre-environmental reflector deployment and stow:

Picture1

Next, IS-29e went through acoustic and vibration testing. These tests are designed to simulate the environment that the satellite will experience during launch, atop an Ariane V rocket. In this picture, IS-29 is being lifted onto the vibration table for testing.

Picture2

Here is the satellite fully lowered onto the vibration table.

Picture3

Next is a photo of IS-29e on the vibration table being tested in X axis (horizontal movement in this photo).

Picture4

This next picture was taken when IS-29e was being tested in z axis (vertical in this photo), when the vibration amplitude was at full level.

Picture5
Here, we see IS-29e after being exposed to vibration and acoustic testing. The reflector is ready to be deployed to verify that everything still functions properly. Live pyrotechnic devices are used to deploy the reflector, identical to what will be used after launch. Note the balloon off-loader above, which is used to simulate zero-gravity environment in space.

Picture6

Last, is a picture of IS-29e with the reflector deployed after the pyrotechnic launch lock has been fired.

Picture7

All systems are “go!” The next major event will be installation of the digital payload, followed by Spacecraft Thermal Vacuum (SCTV) testing.

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