After financial trouble in 2019, Space Advisory Company, one of South Africa’s leading space companies, closed down. Not ready to give up on the heritage and capability of the South African space industry, former Space Advisory Company employees gained international funding and transferred the engineering team and equipment from Space Advisory Company into a new company, now know as Dragonfly Aerospace. Their experienced team is now writing the next chapter in South African space engineering.
Dragonfly Aerospace is investing in a 3000m² design and manufacturing facility with 1000 m² of cleanroom area for microsatellite constellation production. Situated in the technology hub of the Western Cape, known as Techno Park, this facility is the first step in achieving Dragonfly’s vision:
Dragonfly has a vision to create compact, high-performance imaging satellites and payloads that are designed for large imaging constellations that provide persistent views of the Earth in a wide range of spectrums, enabling unprecedented business intelligence and improving the lives of people around the world.
Dragonfly is preparing for serial production of imaging satellites and payloads to support next generation imaging constellations. Their ultimate goal is to create a production line with up to 16 satellites being built in parallel, aiming to produce up to 48 satellites per year. To optimise their production workflow, Dragonfly is expanding their environmental testing capabilities and with a vibration test system that will allow them to perform in-house vibration and shock testing. This adds the potential to conduct development and certification based on launch vibration specifications, shortens the development cycle and enables Dragonfly to deliver certified products to market.
An important part of this expansion is the addition of a vibration test system supplied and installed by TANDM in September 2021. The system consists of a Brüel & Kjaer LDS V8900 electrodynamic shaker with hydrostatic-bearing slip table and head expander. Shaker control will be achieved with the Crystal Instruments Spider 81, a premium vibration controller suited for Random, Sine, RSTD (Resonance Search, Track & Dwell), Shock and TTH (Transient Time History Control). The shaker will be accompanied by a 32-channel HBM QuantumX data acquisition system and a variety of uniaxial and triaxial accelerometers to measure the strain, displacement and shock on the imaging satellites and payloads.
‘The B&K V8900 system provides us with the ability to perform simulated launch and flight vibration testing in-house. Having this capability in a cleanroom gives us significant logistics and timeline advantages.’
– Deon Muller, Mechanical Line Manager at Dragonfly Aerospace
Dragonfly will use the vibration test system to simulate the launch environment that their imaging satellites and payloads experience. The system will simulate the vibration seen during the 9-minute period when a launch vehicle is accelerated from a stationary position at the launch site, up to where it reaches an altitude of 200km and an orbital velocity of 28,600 km/h. The system will also be used to measure the effect of the launch environment on the satellites and payloads to ensure reliable operation.
‘The V8900 shaker from TANDM is a key piece of equipment for our environmental testing and production process. Even with the smoothest launch vehicle the trip to space is still a pretty wild ride and we need to make sure our systems are still in perfect condition when they get there.’
– Bryan Dean, CEO and Co-founder
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