About the David Florida Laboratory
The David Florida Laboratory (DFL) is Canada's world-class spacecraft assembly, integration and testing centre. Named in honour of one of Canada's pioneers in space research, C. David Florida. The Laboratory is maintained and operated by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
On a fee-for-service basis, the DFL is available for use by Canadian and foreign aerospace and telecommunications companies and organizations for qualifying hardware. It is registered as ISO 9001:2015 (PDF, 223 KB) for radio frequency, structural, and thermal qualification testing of space bound and terrestrial hardware. Support facilities include offices, conference rooms, storage areas, check out rooms, and in house mechanical, electrical and electronic shops.
Space is important both to Canada's transition to a knowledge-based economy and to the Government of Canada's social, scientific, sovereignty, security, and foreign policy objectives. As an integral part of the Canadian Space Agency and a vital component of Canada's space infrastructure, the DFL makes a concrete contribution to many of these objectives.
The mandate of the DFL is to:
- Provide ongoing support to meet the objectives of the Canadian Space Program through the qualification of flight hardware
- Provide environmental and radio frequency testing at the system and subsystem level to a range of domestic and off-shore clients on space-based and terrestrial programs on a fee-for-service basis
- Manage the ongoing schedule of test support to maximize the quality and integrity of the test environment, and minimize any risk to people, facilities, and the test article's safety
- Acquire and develop test technology to provide high value test services and facilities to effectively support the Canadian Space Program
- Provide a mechanism for the transfer to industry of appropriate environmental and radio frequency test technology
- Conduct, in conjunction with industry, marketing activities aimed at increasing opportunities for DFL use
- Ensure the cost-effective operation of the DFL by establishing usage priorities and procedures consistent with optimum use of the facilities. This includes the provision of test support for non-space-related work to achieve uniform facility loading.
The DFL supplies government and industry with the specialized rooms, equipment, and support personnel necessary to assemble and check the spaceworthiness of entire spacecraft, their subsystems, and major components.
The DFL is committed to test technology development to meet both present and future requirements. A number of initiatives are currently underway in the domains of thermal, structural, and RF testing related to communications, radar, and remote sensing systems. Specific areas of interest include electro-static discharge measurements on spacecraft, antenna performance measurements, developing support equipment for large lightweight structures, and materials testing for low earth orbit applications.
A major player
Known for its role in the success of the Canadian Space Program, the DFL supports the development of satellite systems, subsystems and instruments for major Canadian Space Agency projects, such as the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, and the Fine Guidance Sensor for the NASA-led James Webb Space Telescope. The DFL also provides ongoing support for Canada's contribution to the International Space Station Program.
Internationally recognized for expertise, high quality equipment, and specialized services, the DFL is the only INMARSAT-certified test-house in the world for aeronautical antenna systems. As the DFL monitors developments in test technology and updates its capabilities, Canadian industry is assured access to state-of-the-art facilities.
The staff at DFL are committed to providing world-class services and solutions for the long-term space qualification needs of Canada's space projects.
The DFL facilities offer a range of services such as thermal vacuum, thermal balance, vibration, modal, and radio frequency testing, as well as mass properties measurements to name but a few. The DFL is one of only a few facilities of its kind in the world that are capable of simulating the enormous stresses experienced during a rocket launch and the temperature extremes that are associated with space flight.
The DFL has:
- Two Class 100,000 clean rooms measuring 315 and 1,080 square metres (3,400 and 11,600 square feet), that are fully equipped for the integration and assembly of satellites and other space hardware
- Three space simulation chambers, the largest of which is 7 x 10 metres (deep) (22 x 35 feet) for performing thermal vacuum and thermal balance testing, and one small chamber for performing outgassing tests
- A range of thermal, temperature humidity, and thermal passive intermodulation (PIM) chambers for performing various thermal and thermal PIM tests
- A variety of modal, static load, mass properties, photogrammetry, and thermal vibration equipment that are available for qualifying the structural aspects of various test articles; the larger of the two electrodynamic shakers has a force rating of 178 kN (40 k lbf)
- Various anechoic chambers, shielded rooms and antenna ranges and associated radio frequency (RF) equipment for performing spherical, cylindrical, and planar near-field, far-field, electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), and PIM/multipaction testing on a variety of antennas and RF payloads
The DFL also has ready access to a range of services offered by the Communications Research Centre which is located on the same site, and to the National Research Council of Canada's Acoustic Test Facility for simulating launch environment characteristics.
In addition to the main facilities of the DFL, the laboratory is well supported by an operational infrastructure in keeping with the broad scope of activities. This includes offices, conference rooms, storage areas, check-out rooms and in-house mechanical, electrical and electronic shops for custom design and device construction.
Short history of the Laboratory
The year 1971 marked the start of an ambitious project in the Canadian Space Program which was to design and build an experimental high power, high frequency (Ku-Band), communications satellite to demonstrate the potential of direct-to-home broadcasting. The Communications Technology Satellite, renamed HERMES, was a joint effort between Canada, which supplied the satellite and the United States, which supplied the high power travelling wave tube amplifier and launch services. HERMES was successfully launched on January 17, 1976, aboard a three stage, Delta 2916 rocket. Although designed for a two year lifetime, the satellite operated for almost four years and contributed materially to the advancement of Canadian capabilities in space.
While demonstrating new communications capabilities and services, the HERMES Program would advance Canadian industrial expertise in the design and manufacture of satellites and satellite subsystems. In support of those objectives, the Government of Canada built a facility in Ottawa that would be capable of supporting the environmental testing needs of satellite subsystems. The facility was named the David Florida Laboratory in honour of the late C. David Florida, Manager of the HERMES Program. The DFL was built as part of the Communications Research Centre (CRC) site which had been given the responsibility for the development of the HERMES spacecraft.
Evolving with client needs
Officially opened in September 1972, the DFL consisted of a single high bay clean room integration and storage area, a series of small thermal vacuum chambers, a 53 kN (12 k lbf) vibration table, a 6 x 6 x 6 m (20 x 20 x 20 ft) anechoic chamber, and office space.
From that modest beginning, the DFL has become Canada's national facility for spacecraft assembly, integration, and test. It is a world class, full service, environmental test facility capable of qualifying the world's most advanced space systems.
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