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Specially designed satellite
NASA’s Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) is a specially designed satellite that uses a laser altimeter to measure the thickness of the polar ice caps – an indicator of global warming. Because its laser transmits light through several instruments within the system, positional error between the various components must be extremely low. To ensure that it meets these requirements, NASA is using physical testing, computer simulation, finite element analysis (FEA) and Femap™ software from Siemens PLM Software to predict the response of the satellite to the stresses of space flight.
GLAS is the primary scientific instrument aboard the ICESat spacecraft. GLAS consists of thousands of individual parts and weighs about 600 pounds. As with all satellites, this one must withstand the extreme stress of the launch (about eight-g launch acceleration; up to 30g dynamic responses to random vibration). However, thermal stresses during operation are the more serious problem for GLAS. The satellite will constantly be heating and cooling as it passes through its 96.5-minute orbit, causing expansion and contraction in many of the structural components. NASA knew it had to use a combination of testing capabilities to predict the response of the satellite to the stresses of space flight.
Perform finite element analysis on each individual component of GLAS, as well as on the entire system to:
Throughout the development of GLAS, engineers have been performing physical tests of various components and subsystems. The analysts have been incorporating this information into their analysis models all along. This is called model correlation.When the entire satellite assembly is built and tested prior to launch, they will use that test data to further refine their models.
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NASA's mission is to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.
"In addition to overall ease of use, many features within Femap are helpful to our work."
Lead Mechanical Analyst for GLAS
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