The Luxembourg-based European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC) has confirmed that the Dusty Thermal Vacuum Chamber (DTVC) - "a gateway to the lunar surface" - will "soon" be implemented in the Grand Duchy.
Source : chronicle.lu
Publication date : 11/02/2023
Back in June 2023 at the Netherlands' European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), the European Space Agency (ESA) conducted the kick-off meeting with Spartan Space, Haux Life Support, Maana Electric and ESRIC (part of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology - LIST) to design and manufacture a novel DTVC. The DTVC will be capable of testing subsystem components under lunar surface conditions of high vacuum (10-6mbar), extreme temperatures (-180 to 160 °C) and in the presence of lunar dust (regolith) simulant. The DTVC will be commissioned at the ESRIC/LIST premises in Luxembourg and is aimed to be ready in 2025.
As reported by ESRIC, the presence of lunar dust poses significant challenges to lunar missions, affecting the integrity of equipment and instruments. Astronauts have reported various issues such as failing seals, impaired vision and damage to solar panels due to dust accumulation. These problems can lead to malfunctions or even mission failure. Furthermore, lunar dust hampers the accurate collection of data by interfering with scientific instruments, resulting in incomplete or inaccurate data.
To address these challenges, scientists and engineers have developed innovative solutions such as dust-resistant coatings and protective covers. When planning for future lunar missions, it is considered crucial to continue advancing technologies and strategies to mitigate the impact of lunar dust and ensure mission success.
The ESA, in collaboration with international partners, is focused on future lunar missions involving both human and robotic activity. These missions aim to establish a sustainable presence in lunar orbit and on the surface. By recognising the Moon as a crucial testing ground for the future exploration of the solar system, the emphasis is being put on developing a more complex infrastructure, particularly around the lunar south pole. ESRIC noted that the involvement in lunar missions is not limited to space agencies, with commercial actors now playing a significant role in lunar exploration activities, including in Europe.
"The Dusty Thermal Vacuum Chamber that will be implemented in Luxembourg will be a gateway to the lunar surface: critical equipment will be tested in high vacuum in presence of lunar dust (regolith). With its dimensions and vacuum capacities, it will be unique in Europe and will allow testing equipment before embarking to a lunar mission," explained Peter Weiss, CEO of Spartan Space. "We are particularly happy to have assembled a very strong consortium of experts in this field with Haux, Maana and ESRIC/LIST."
In the coming decades of lunar surface missions, the implementation of a DTVC will be a vital endeavour towards qualifying and accepting components crucial to the success of lunar missions, noted ESRIC. The DTVC's mission is to prevent the occurrence of late discovery problems and mitigate risks during proto-flight and acceptance testing. By subjecting subsystems to simulated lunar surface conditions, the mission system owner is believed to effectively reduce the mission's early failure rate to an acceptable level. ESRIC added that this risk mitigation objective is particularly significant in addressing latent defects that may manifest in vacuum, temperature and environmental stress conditions of space (e.g. dust). Testing in the DTVC enables the detection of defects that may have otherwise been overlooked or unanticipated, thereby ensuring the thorough qualification of mission components, concluded ESRIC.