XCAM Finds ESA Funding for World-First Particle Monitoring22nd Mar 2023
XCAM Ltd announced on 21st March that ESA would further fund the development of the company’s in-satellite particle contamination monitor. This revolutionary monitor will be the world’s first for monitoring the particle contamination inside a rocket launch fairing. Northampton-based XCAM stated that the monitor would be flown on a test mission in 2025.
XCAM and the PFO Monitor
The XCAM device, called a Space Particle Fall Out Monitor, or Space PFO, follows from eight years of development backed by ESA. The company notes that while other parameters are commonly measured during a launch, PFO is not. Thus, the presence acoustic and mechanical shock and vibration inside the fairing are well known, and data is collected. However, PFO is still terra incognito in satellite launch.
What is known, according to XCAM, is that particulate matter can play a role in the performance degradation or failure of a very expensive satellite. Currently, measures to prevent particles from entering the satellite are taken during the process from construction through testing. Clean rooms are a normal part of the satellite construction environment. Until now, however, monitoring the contamination caused by the forces acting on the fairing and its contents ha been unclear.
Down to 5 microns
The technology developed by XCAM enables the measurement of particles down to a level as small as 5 microns. The system is fully automated and works in real-time, and the detectors enable the particulate matter to be detected remotely.
XCAM also note that as a result of the Space PFO Monitor’s development, terrestrial equivalents have also been created. The company notes that this is a “great example of the spin-out of space-derived technology to the wider world.” The Earth-bound monitor, called the PFO 1040, lets operators remotely monitor clean rooms and other sensitive environments such as clean assembly plants.