RUAG Space has successfully developed and tested a new, low shock, jettison system for payload fairings that enables a quieter and smoother journey to space for satellites or other payloads.
The required payload fairings for the European launchers Ariane and VEGA have been produced by RUAG Space in Emmen, Switzerland, since the 1970s. As part of the Future Launchers Preparatory Program (FLPP) of the European Space Agency (ESA), RUAG Space has developed this new separation and jettison system for payload fairings.
RUAG Low shock fairing separation and jettison system pillars.
The payload fairing protects the satellite from aerodynamic and thermal loads during flight. After passing through dense atmospheric layers and as soon as the satellite is no longer at risk, the payload fairing is separated from the launch vehicle. As a rule, two pyrotechnic mechanisms are fired to open hinges, allowing the half-shells to separate safely from the payload.
According to Alberto Sánchez Cebrian, Project Manager at RUAG, pyrotechnics is a proven technology which may generate significant shock during activation and may result in excitation that needs to be considered in the design of the launcher and payload hardware.
The separation and jettison system has a modular design and reduces development costs, as parts can be improved or replaced without affecting the entire system. Testing is easier and the mechanism does not require synchronization. The tests were carried out at the RUAG Spaces site in Emmen on a 2.6 m long Vega payload fairing. The new system is scalable and could also be used for, for instance, in the European launch vehicle Ariane.
RUAG low shock fairing separation and jettison system pillars.
Image is courtesy of the company.
In addition to the successful separation test, a significant noise reduction was achieved. An integrated sound-reducing perforated insulation layer within the sandwich panels of the payload fairing enables noise reduction without increasing mass and volume. In certain frequency bands this system could replace acoustic absorber mats currently used in payload fairings. Testing and evaluation of this new system will continue in the next phase of the project.