in Space

Exobotics launches world’s first portable thermal vacuum testing system

Posted 15 July 2021 · Add Comment

Cornwall and Cambridge based company, Exobotics, are continuing their mission to make space accessible for all, by developing the next generation of small satellite subsystems to lower the barriers of cost, skill and time requirements that prevent many businesses from investing in space exploration.

Above: XO-VAC at Space-Comm Expo.
Courtesy Exobotics

Aiming to reduce the cost and complexity of space operations, Exobotics recently launched the world’s first portable thermal vacuum testing system, the 'XO-VAC': a desktop version of the usually cost-heavy static testing facilities for space exploration equipment, streamlining the production process for satellites and subsystems through miniaturisation, to match the technology now seen in the NanoSats an CubeSats being most commonly launched.

Experts in mechatronics, materials, software and machine learning, the business has created the world’s first low-cost, portable thermal vacuum (TVAC) testing system, which simulates the extreme environmental conditions of space by exposing payloads to high vacuum at high or low temperatures.

The new era of space exploration has seen an equal focus on making space more accessible and launch more sustainable, giving rise to the use of small satellites, reusable rockets and commercial subsystems. SmallSats, CubeSats and NanoSatellites now form the majority of payloads being launched into space, and while the technology to develop the satellites has rapidly accelerated, the testing facilities have remained the same, resulting in high costs and long lead times.

Currently, the only option for testing the shoebox payloads is in static TVAC facilities, using excessive cost and power in comparison to the size of the equipment. Recognising the need for a more streamlined and cost-effective solution led Exobotics to develop the, now market ready, XO-VAC.

The all-in-one 'desktop' TVAC solution is price competitive with typical TVAC facility renting costs - the purchase price of the unit is roughly equal to a week's rental of a standard facility. Offering long-term value, the system is focused on enabling high throughput, parallel TVAC testing for industry and academia.

A key element of the portable design of the system is that it enables the incorporation of environmental testing into the product life cycle, as opposed to at the end of the development. Unlocking the ability to work in a process driven way, the portable system allows users to detect errors earlier in the design cycle with shorter lead times, thus reducing R&D costs.

The XO-VAC operates with the same ethos as the rest of Exobotics’ satellite subsystems and ground operations and ground support equipment, offering customisation as a standard. All customers can expect to customise the base system to their needs at no additional cost. As the democratisation of space continues - creating an industry ripe for opportunities in investment and innovation - the company is determined to lower barriers to entry in terms of cost, skill, and time required to explore space, making the Moon and beyond as accessible and economical as low-Earth orbit.

Nadeem Gabbani, CEO and Principal Engineer, Exobotics: “We are thrilled to be launching  XO-VAC at Space-Comm Expo 2021. We built this system to support acceleration in the sector whilst finally bringing new-space thinking to environmental testing. 

Gail Eastaugh, Director, AeroSpace Cornwall: “This is the technology of new space - set to democratise the next era of exploration even further. We’re extremely excited to have supported Exobotics on their journey to market and can’t wait to see the results of this revolutionary product.”



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