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News

Miniature harnesses to be on board July Shuttle launch

Tekdata Interconnect Systems : 15 December, 2009  (Application Story)
Tekdata has supplied custom flight harnesses for a Mass Spectrometer to be used on board the International Space Station for high energy particle measurements
Miniature harnesses to be on board July Shuttle launch
Tekdata Interconnections' Cryoconnect Division has completed delivery of bespoke flight harnesses for the Alpha Mass Spectrometer, a space-research instrument due to be launched to the International Space Station aboard one of the last ever NASA Space Shuttle missions in July 2010.

The Alpha Mass Spectrometer (AMS) will detect and analyse high-energy particles and radiation, operating at an altitude of 200 nautical miles to avoid the obscuring effects of the earth’s atmosphere. Its main component is a superconducting magnet cooled by superfluid helium to extremely low temperature, around 1.8K. The magnet produces high field strength of around 7T (Tesla), sufficient to deflect the particles contained in cosmic rays to allow their characteristics to be analysed in detail. The results from five different types of detectors, contributing to over 300,000 data channels, are expected to increase understanding of the origins of the universe and acquire experimental data to compare with theories about anti-matter and dark matter – which is believed to make up 80 percent of the universe.

In addition to performing cosmology and particle physics experiments, the AMS also provides a test-bed for research into superconducting magnets. These are expected to be a key component of cosmic-ray protection systems necessary for long-distance manned spaceflight, such as a mission to Mars, and may also form the basis of space-vehicle propulsion systems in the future.

In total 175 harnesses for the instrument were designed and manufactured by Cryoconnect. Working with project members, primarily Scientific Magnets based at the UKAEA Culham Laboratory in Oxfordshire - UK the producer of the innovative superconducting magnet, Cryoconnect developed and built purpose-designed connectors and miniature ribbon cables using materials such as resistance alloys for predictable performance and minimal heat burden at cryogenic temperatures. The company is able to produce specialist connectors and miniature cables in low volumes cost effectively, on a fast-turnaround basis, which enabled the AMS project to meet the performance, delivery and budgetary targets for the flight harnesses.

Roy Blake, who led the Cryoconnect development team, commented, “It has been a tremendous privilege for Cryoconnect to contribute to this technically advanced project, as a small part supporting a large consortium including over 200 scientists from 31 institutions and 15 countries. The data returned by AMS will be important for the future of mankind, allowing us to increase our understanding and hopefully to travel more deeply into space.”

Cryoconnect continues to provide cryogenic wiring solutions to major space - observation missions such as the Herschel Space Observatory/Planck Satellite now collecting infrared and cosmic-microwave data from L2 (the second Lagrangian Point, 1.5 million kilometres from Earth). Current projects include cryogenic harnesses on the JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) and assemblies for the primary instruments MIRI, NIRCam and NIRSpec. The division has also designed, developed and produced specialist harnesses for numerous ground-based and sub-orbital observation projects.
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