How are Space Technology Cable Assemblies Manufactured?
At Minnesota Wire, our Research and Development has always been and continues to be the driving force and success behind our space technology and aircraft cables. We will always be committed to R&D to provide our customers with unique insights and design improvements and new solutions available within the industry.
We are national leaders in the science behind lightweight MIL-SPEC space technology wire, carbon solutions, carbon nanotube wires, high vibration resilient, high-temperature cable, cable assemblies and custom connectors required in extreme environments.
Our design and engineering department develop custom solutions to fit your specific space technology or aircraft wire and cable project. From the conceptual stages through full production runs, we work with our customers every step of the way.
First, let’s differentiate between space technology and the aerospace market. When we use the category “space technology” we focus on aircraft or spacecraft used outside of the earth’s atmosphere. “Aerospace” mainly deals with aircraft staying within the earth’s atmosphere.
Space technology includes space vehicles such as spacecraft, satellites, space stations and orbital launch vehicles; deep-space communication; in-space propulsion; and a wide variety of other technologies including support infrastructure equipment and procedures. The aerospace market consists of sales of aerospace equipment (including aircraft) and related services by entities (organizations, sole traders, and partnerships) producing commercial aircraft, undertake aircraft maintenance, repair and overhauling services, and produce support and auxiliary equipment, such as radar, air traffic control towers and satellites for civilian purposes.
How are Cable Assemblies Manufactured?
When building high quality cable assemblies for space technology, extrusion is a critical piece of the manufacturing process. Wire and cable extrusion is the process of converting polymers into a continuous profile, providing protection against external damage and physical wear. It can be used on a bare wire or a shielded cable for the application of an outer jacket. Different processes exist depending on the different compounds requested by the market.
The building block of any assembly is the conductor, which gets stranded based on the needs of the project. After it’s stranded, Minnesota Wire can insulate, fill, wrap, and shield depending on the needs of the project.
Wrap and sintering consists of unique materials and processes in space technology wire manufacturing involving insulation, dielectric, and shielding capabilities. Processing materials include PTFE, polyester, polyimide (Kapton and Oasis), metal foils, metalized polymer tapes, and unique conductive tapes. This process is high volume and creates a continuous and consistent profile. A fluoropolymer extrusion line allows for the insulation of wires and cables with space technology / aerospace qualified polymers.
Testing Cable Assemblies
A crucial aspect to cable assembly manufacturing is testing. Every cable assembly Minnesota Wire produces goes through several rounds of testing during design. We test assemblies to ensure integrity and functionality. Signal integrity analysis allows our engineers to look for opens or shorts, the correct pin-out, and to test the integrity of the shielding.
Space is a harsh environment for electronic components of all types. Potential problem areas include intermittent connections, sub-specification performance, and even outright failure. These problems begin with launch vibration and extend through the cold and vacuum of orbital use and beyond.
These issues place many demands on connector performance as well as constraints on connector design and implementation. They are all united by the broad term of reliability priorities and the impracticality or impossibility of in-flight repair or replacement. Along with size, weight, shock and vibration, other issues include outgassing, residual magnetism, temperature extremes and thermal cycling, cosmic radiation, flashover, and connector orientation.
Minnesota Wire is able to manufacture space technology cable assemblies with several competitive advantages:
- Manufactured to withstand high vibration
- Extreme heat resistance
- Small batch prototyping/custom designs
- Reduced launch costs/weight savings
- Wrap and sintering process
- High-end shielding for EMI (Electric Magnetic Inference)
Minnesota Wire is proud to be industry pioneers with over 15 years of experience in Space Technology wire cables. We are AS9100 certified and have designed over 6,000 space wire cable variations, using both cutting edge and traditional materials and all with superior shielding and EMP (Electric Magnetic Pulse) protection.
At Minnesota Wire we utilize in-house tooling and rapid prototyping with test and measurement facilities including an EMI chamber (highly specialized equipment used in the testing of electronic devices against regulatory standards concerning both radiated and conducted radio frequency (RF) emissions and immunity) and three in-house labs.