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Frequently asked questions about David Florida Laboratory

Please note that David-Florida Laboratory operations will be terminated by . Information related to this section may be consulted for reference purposes only.

The David Florida Laboratory (DFL) is Canada's world-class spacecraft assembly, integration and testing centre, maintained and operated by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). On a fee-for-service basis, the DFL supplies governments 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 facility includes capabilities for thermal vacuum, thermal balance, vibration, modal, and radio frequency testing, as well as mass properties measurements. The laboratory is one of only a few facilities of its kind in the world, capable of simulating the enormous stresses and temperature extremes associated with rocket launch and space flight.

1. Who is David Florida?

David Florida was one of Canada's foremost pioneers in space research. Dr. Florida was director of the Canadian National Space Telecommunications Laboratory and manager of the International Satellites for Ionospheric Studies (ISIS) program. In addition, just prior to his death in 1971, he was selected manager of the Communications Technology Satellite (CTS) or HERMES program.

2. When was the DFL built?

The official opening of the DFL was September 29, 1972.

3. Where is the DFL located?

The DFL is located at 3701 Carling Avenue, Bldg. 65, Ottawa, Ontario. It is on a site shared by two other government departments namely, Industry Canada (Communications Research Centre or CRC) and the Department of National Defence (Defence Research and Development Canada or DRDC – Ottawa), at Shirley’s Bay, in the West end of Ottawa.

4. What was the first satellite program tested at the DFL?

The first satellite to be tested at the DFL was the joint Canada-U.S. Communications Technology Satellite (CTS) or HERMES, which was launched in January, 1976. For the HERMES program, the DFL only had the capability to perform component or subsystem level testing. Full up spacecraft testing was performed in the U.S.

5. What was the next major space program supported by the DFL?

The next major space program supported by the DFL was Canada's contribution to the U.S. Space Shuttle program, the remote manipulator system or CANADARM. CANADARM testing began in 1977 and continues through to today. CANADARM components (wrist, shoulder and elbow joint subsystems, the end effector and numerous black boxes) were subjected to a battery of qualification tests that included thermal vacuum, vibration, and electromagnetic compatibility at both the acceptance and qualification levels.

6. Does the DFL evolve as space industry technology evolves?

Yes, the DFL is still evolving to meet the new frontiers in satellite and component assembly, integration, and qualification test. The DFL's first expansion took place in FY 1979/80 as part of a new government policy to develop first class facilities in Canada to design, build and test full up satellite systems. This first expansion included the addition of a new high bay integration and storage area, and included the procurement of a new large thermal vacuum chamber, a new vibration shaker, and a new large anechoic chamber. The expansion provided the DFL with the capability to perform integration and qualification testing on the new generation of satellites designed for launch aboard the U.S. Shuttle or by European or American expendable launchers.

The DFL continues to evolve and is well positioned to meet any needs as they may arise. Please refer to our facility specifications.

7. What was the first satellite program tested at the DFL following the first major facility upgrade?

Immediately following the certification of the laboratory, these new facilities were put to use for partial integration and qualification testing of the ANIK C2 satellite, but it wasn't until the ANIK D program that the new facilities were really put to the test. Both the ANIK D1 and D2 satellites underwent full up qualification testing at the facility over a period of approximately two years. Since that time, the DFL has supported the qualification testing of all of Canada's major satellite programs including ANIK E, MSAT 1 and 2 and RADARSAT 1 and 2.

8. What offshore satellite programs have gone through the facility?

The DFL played a key role in Spar Aerospace landing its first international prime contract for a communications satellite system. The contract called for the design, manufacture and testing of two communications satellites plus associated ground support equipment for Brazil. BRASILSAT S1 and S2 were fully integrated and environmentally tested at the DFL. The DFL was also chosen for the final assembly and the majority of the qualification testing of the European Space Agency's Large Satellite Program, OLYMPUS. Because OLYMPUS was a novel satellite, (i.e., the first design of its kind in the world), it required that in addition to the flight model spacecraft, two qualification models be tested, a structural and a thermal model. Testing of the structural and thermal models began in 1985 and flight model testing in 1987. The spacecraft was finally launched in 1989. Other offshore programs were Indostar, Optus C, BSAT 2A, 2B, and 2C, CMBstar, plus many subsystems from other international satellites.

9. What special preparations were required to support OLYMPUS testing?

To properly accommodate this new generation of larger satellites, the DFL was expanded through the addition of another new high bay integration and storage area. This new high bay was twice the size of the existing assembly rooms, measuring some 1,100 sq m. In addition, upgrades to the facility were also effected in the areas of analytic services, mass properties measurements, infrared testing, and modal analysis.

10. What was the most recent satellite program tested at the DFL?

The DFL completed the integration and qualification testing of M3MSat (Maritime Monitoring and Messaging Microsatellite), a technology demonstration satellite that is used to assess the utility of having in space an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for reading signals from vessels to better manage transport in Canadian waters. M3MSat was launched in 2016.

11. What current and future programs are slated for qualification testing at the DFL?

All of Canada's major space programs are expected to be qualified at the DFL, including the Radarsat Constellation Mission. In addition, several foreign programs are also currently under negotiation.

12. What is thermal vacuum testing?

Thermal vacuum or space simulation testing refers to the technique used for simulating or replicating the extreme temperature excursions and vacuum conditions of deep space. This is achieved using a pressure vessel fitted with thermal shrouds and a vacuum system. The shroud is flooded with liquid nitrogen to achieve the cold side temperatures; alternately, spacecraft heating can be achieved using a series of infrared lamps. The air within the chamber is evacuated first using a conventional mechanical pumping system and then switching to a diffusion or cryogenic system to create the vacuum necessary for space simulation.

13. What kind of temperatures can be achieved within the thermal vacuum chamber? What kind of pressures?

Temperatures within a thermal vacuum chamber normally range between -186 and +150 degrees C, a wider range of temperatures can be achieved in thermal only chambers.

Chamber pressures can vary significantly depending on types of systems being used. At the DFL, chamber pressures of 1.0 E-7 torr can readily be attained.

14. Why is vibration testing important?

During launch, the satellite or payload is subjected to enormous vibrational stresses. As such, it is critical to ensure that the satellite is able to withstand rocket engine vibrations and the gravity multiplying effects of extreme acceleration experienced during a launch.

15. What is an anechoic chamber?

An anechoic chamber is an echo-free chamber. That means that only the direct waves generated by a source inside the chamber propagate freely inside the chamber and that there are no reflected waves, which are highly undesirable. In the real world, the reflected waves do exist, but the goal for the anechoic chamber is to minimize their presence such that the inside of the chamber can be approximated to a free space propagation environment.

16. How does an anechoic chamber work?

The anechoic chambers function best at only the frequency range for which they were designed. Based on this criterion, there are acoustic anechoic chambers (used for tests in the audio frequency spectrum) and radio-frequency anechoic chambers (used for tests in the RF and microwave frequency spectrum). The four anechoic chambers available at DFL cover only RF/microwave test frequencies ranging from 250 MHz to 50 GHz.

The anechoic behavior of the chamber is obtained by lining the chamber walls, ceiling, and floor with absorber material of different shapes and sizes, according to special design patterns. The absorber material has the role to absorb and dissipate the waves and to minimize any reflections from getting back inside the chamber. The absorber material used for the RF/microwave anechoic chambers is foam impregnated with carbon particles, which acts as a termination load to the incident radio waves. The pyramidal shape of the absorbers is proven to be optimal for minimizing the reflections. The reflections from the pyramid’s faces are channeled towards the pyramid base and only a minute fraction of the incident waves reflect towards the center of the chamber.

17. Besides thermal vacuum, vibration, and radio frequency testing, what other types of qualifications testing can a satellite be expected to undergo during a spacecraft level program?

Additional spacecraft level testing consists primarily of mass properties measurements, ambient deployment tests, pyroshock and acoustic testing. The DFL's vertical axis measurement system (VAMS) is used to perform mass properties measurements that include moment of inertia, product of inertia, centre of gravity, and mass. Ambient deployment tests of the various spacecraft appendages are performed primarily in DFL's largest high bay. The DFL has access to a number of different types of deployment rigs and fixtures for performing these delicate tasks. Pyroshock testing is the measurement and/or simulation of the high-frequency, high-magnitude shock pulse and responses generated by the separation of structural systems (e.g., separate a spacecraft from a launch vehicle) or the deployment of appendages (e.g., solar panels, antennas). Finally, acoustic testing: although the facilities for reproducing the effect of acoustically induced vibration in spacecraft structures does not exist within the DFL proper, the DFL has ready access to and assists in the conduct of these tests at the National Research Council of Canada's Aeroacoustic Test Facility.

18. How many Canadian companies and organizations have utilized the services and facilities available through the DFL?

Over the years, several hundred Canadian companies and organizations have benefited from the services and facilities of the DFL. Although many of these users are repeat customers, the DFL's client list continues to grow on an annual basis.

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