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A lot of things that are relatively easy to do on earth are a lot harder to do in space: breathing, walking and flying are just a few. Let’s go ahead and add EMI shielding to that list.
Shielding devices from electromagnetic interference (EMI) isn’t exactly easy to do anywhere, but in space, it becomes even more difficult because you have to consider the unique environment and requirements for devices that make it into orbit.
It’s certainly harder, but it’s not impossible. If you work with the right manufacturing partner, and with the right shielding materials, you can rest assured that your satellite or ship is completely safe from EMI and will function as intended. At Modus Advanced, we believe we’re that manufacturing partner. And we’re going to prove it by showing you what we know about these five key considerations for EMI shielding in space.
There’s no replacement for quality in manufacturing. That’s true in earth’s atmosphere, and you can double it when you’re anywhere else in the universe. We’re here to provide the level of quality in EMI shielding and manufacturing. Want to work with us? Get in touch.
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1. Low Outgassing: The No. 1 Consideration for EMI Shielding for Space
By a large margin, outgassing is the most important consideration for EMI shielding for space applications. Why? Because outgassing can be an enormous problem in space.
Outgassing refers to the releasing of a gas that was trapped inside a material during manufacturing. It can happen over time and change the internal environments of satellites and aircraft that can enter orbit. For example, if outgassing occurs inside a satellite that does any kind of imaging, it can fog the lenses the device uses and render them more or less inoperable.
To prevent outgassing, you have to choose the right materials on all parts of the device, including EMI shielding materials. But how are you supposed to know whether an EMI shielding material you are considering is a low-outgassing material?
Lucky for everyone in the space industry, NASA has made EMI shielding with its ASTM E 595 spec. This rating is an indication of the results of testing that looks at the weight of the material before and after it is exposed to heat and vacuum forces. If the material weighs less at the end of testing, that suggests that it has released trapped gases. The amount of gas released indicates whether the material will be considered low- or high-outgassing.
This bears repeating: low-outgassing materials are essential for EMI shielding in any space application. Always look for the ASTM E 595 rating and whether the manufacturer indicates that the material is, in fact, low-outgassing.
2. Go for Quality to Save on Budget Disasters
At Modus, we’re big fans of quality in manufacturing. There are a lot of good reasons for that in any application, but when you start talking about space, quality becomes so much more important.
Why? Because pretty much anything that’s going to go into space is ridiculously expensive to build and launch. One low-quality part, such as an EMI gasket, failing can compromise the entire satellite or ship. So, if you go with a lower-quality manufacturer and a cheaper material to save $100 per gasket, you end up losing as much as $1 billion if that low-quality EMI gasket fails to shield the device from EMI and renders the entire device useless.
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3. EMI Shields in Space Must Be Highly Reliable
You need to focus not only on quality for the initial launch but long-term reliability. Of course, you want your EMI gaskets and other parts to last a long time in any application. But most devices that are entering space are unmanned, and to reach them after they have launched would cost millions or billions of dollars.
In effect, that means they need to be able to last at least a few years without needing repairs. Everything on the device, electromagnetic interference shielding gaskets included, must be reliable over the long term.
4. Multiple Environmental Threats Can Harm EMI Shields Meant for Space
Here’s another EMI shielding consideration that is highly unique to space applications: devices are going to be exposed to multiple harsh or extreme environments over their lifetimes. You need to select a material for your EMI gasket that can both effectively shield the device and withstand these environments.
First, consider temperature. A satellite being built and transported to the launch location will be in relatively mild earth temperatures. During the launch, it is likely to face extremely high temperatures. And when it reaches space, the temperatures plummet to around -455 degrees Fahrenheit.
Finding a gasket material that can withstand all of those temperatures and act as an effective EMI shield is a challenge. And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that the material may be exposed to highly corrosive fuels and similar compounds.
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5. EMI Shielding Material Weight Matters Most in Space
In 2021, it costs around $10,000 per pound to launch something into earth’s orbit. When communications satellites devices can weigh multiple tons, that cost-per-pound figure becomes a huge budget consideration — to the point that you have to consider the weight of the materials you choose for every single part, including your EMI gaskets.
The differences between weights in the various EMI materials aren’t big, but when they’re multiplied by the enormous cost per pound of actually sending a device to space, a small weight difference can have a huge budget impact on EMI shielding materials.
Modus: EMI Shielding Fit for Space and Everywhere Else
Space may be endless, but there’s no room for error with electromagnetic interference shielding in space. That’s why it is so important that you keep the above considerations in mind as in the process of design and testing EMI shielding gaskets for your space-faring device.
When it comes time to choose a manufacturing partner, that’s no time to let up on the high quality you’re after. If you’re looking for quality, you’re looking for the trusted team at Modus Advanced. If you would like to work with us, we would like to hear from you. Give us a call at 925-960-8700 or contact us online.