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Aviation News The European Space Agency in the service of aviation MRO

The European Space Agency in the service of aviation MRO

Léo Barnier
28 NOV 2019 | 333 words
The European Space Agency in the service of aviation MRO
© ESA / P. de Maagt
Aircraft maintenance is not an area that we generally associated with the space sector. And yet, the European Space Agency (ESA) has shown that it can be useful in this field, or at least its facilities can. It welcomed Specto Aerospace into its European Space Technology Centre (ESTEC) at Noordwijk, in the Netherlands. The Dutch company, which specialises in composite repair, was able to test an Airbus A340 radome in ESA's HERTZ (Hybrid European Radio frequency and antenna Test Zone) anechoic chamber.

The size of the ESA's chamber enabled the two metre in diameter radome to be accommodated without difficulty. Specto Aerospace was then able to validate the equipment's electromagnetic behaviour following its structural damage repair. The MRO company told us that this is compulsory process before the equipment can be returned to service.

The radome's repairs can actually affect the operation of the plane's weather radar, as Eric Van Der Houwen, ESA antenna engineer, explains: "Sometimes a repaired radome can look good but might not perform so well in RF terms. It might be that the radome structure is absorbing too much RF energy, or triggering signal reflections or interactions that alter the shape of what should be a forward-looking signal. In this particular case, this radome requires a 'side lobe level test' - checking its sideways emissions".

"ESA is one of our reliable partners for specific aircraft parts testing", says Jeroen Mast, managing director of Specto. "Our in-house test facility is able to perform the standard transmission efficiency tests for aircraft radomes, with ESA's anechoic test facilities offering a valuable add-on to our services".

This type of operation is still rare and of course is not a priority for the European Space Agency. Eric Van Der Houwen freely admits: "We had a rare gap in our test schedule and were able to accommodate a commercial customer". All the tests on the Specto Aerospace A340 radome were carried out over one day.
Léo Barnier
Specialized journalist
Industry & Technology, Equipments, MRO


 
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