Development and tests of the RLF hardware

During the discussion of the Project RLF scientific programme, both sides found it leading towards a common aim to start the examinations on the MIR space station using the devices that were left after the conclusion of the AUSTROMIR project (MONIMIR, MOTOMIR, OPTOVERT, KYMO, PROTEINOMETER, and DATAMIR).

A new immobilization system for the MOTOMIR (INTERFACE 3) device for the MYO-MOTOSCAN experiment, as well as a modernized PROTEINOMETER for the BODYFLUIDS experiment were delivered to the space station. Simultaneously the modernization works for the apparatii MONIMIR, KYMO and OPTOVERT as well as the creation of a special tube for the COGIMIR experiment. The sets MONIMIR-M and COGIMIR-2 as well as KYMO-2 were developed.

Both sides followed basic organizational-technical documents during these works, whereby they abided to the representatives? requirements of both sides as agreed in the functional specifications.

All device models created by the Austrian side (qualification, training and flight models) passed through two phases from delivery and take over tests pursuant to the agreed programme. The final flight capability was confirmed with the qualification tests, and carried out pursuant to the agreed programme.

All particulars of the devices that would be deployed on the MIR space station were agreed with the Russian partners and authoritatively agreed upon in the form of technical specifications in the requirements specifications. The following items were agreed: mechanical construction of the devices and their packaging, the electrical and electromagnetic compatibility, the electrical components, the mechanical durability against mechanical influences during transport as well as climatic factors, ionizing radiation and operating safety during deployment.

Within the framework of the preparation and execution of the RLF project, together with the hardware for the common experiments, a considerable amount of work was performed. The following work is worth mentioning:

  • Modernization and further development of the devices that were developed by the Austrian side for the AUSTROMIR project.
  • Modernization of the software for DATAMIR and KYMO.
  • Delivery of consumables to the Cosmonauts Training Centre Ju. Gagarin. These were required for the training and pre-flight and post-flight examinations of each team.
  • Technical support of the devices? training models that were used during the execution of the works in the ZPK, including the execution of repairs and restoration works.
  • Extensive work regarding the modernization of the data analysis systems and the data copying systems located at the IMBP, including the enhancement of the operative memory of these systems.
  • Copying of data that was recorded on streamer-tapes of the DATAMIR system during the execution of the in-flight experiments as well as the pre-flight and post-flight examinations.

The acceptance, qualification and delivery of the instruments had to be carried out according to the following principle procedure:

  • Tests of single components, modules and instruments at the producers premises,
  • Acceptance of each instrument from the producer in Austria by special acceptance test procedures,
  • Qualification of each type of instrument using the technological units,
  • Acceptance tests and delivery of each instrument to the Soviet partners in Moscow,
  • Integration and electrical compatibility tests in a full-size model of the space station MIR in Moscow and
  • Final control in Baikonur.
Acceptance Tests (AT)

Acceptance of each unit was carried out in two steps. The first step was the acceptance test in Austria (AT-1) in the presence of the instrument producers, the experiment investigators, the project management and Soviet experts. After the acceptance of a unit the project management took further responsibility for the instrument. The second step of acceptance tests (AT-2) took place in Moscow after transportation of the units to Russia. In the presence of the project management, Russian experts and casually instrument producers or experiment investigators, the delivery of the units to the Russian side was performed by signing the final acceptance documents which confirmed the suitability of the units for the specific purpose (e.g. cosmonaut training, integration tests, complex tests, use on board the space station MIR, etc.). The extent of acceptance investigations and the detailed test procedures for AT-1 and AT-2 were specified in special acceptance test programs, worked out for each instrument. In general the test programs included:

  • Control of the completeness of the instrument,
  • Control of the technical documentation with respect to completeness, form and contents,
  • Measurement and control of external dimensions of the instrument and its modules fixed in respective dimensional drawings,
  • Visual control of the marking of the instrument,
  • Inspection of the electrical assembly with respect to general technical specifications,
  • Measurement of the insulation resistance between the supply voltage inputs and the body of the instrument,
  • Control of the insulation strength between the supply voltage inputs and the body of the instrument by applying a test voltage of 100V over a period of 1 minute and subsequently controlling the insulation resistance,
  • Measurement of the transient pulse at the moment of switching on, providing the instrument with supply voltages of 23V, 27V and 34V successively,
  • Measurement of current consumption, provided that the instrument is working in normal mode and supplied with 23V, 27V and 34V successively,
  • Functional control with supply voltages of 23V, 27V and 34V,
  • Inspection of packaging,
  • Control of the medical applicability of instruments used for medical experiments by conducting the experiments with a test person in the presence of the responsible experiment investigators.
Qualification Tests (QT)

The space qualification of each single instrument type was tested by using a special technological unit (TM) which had to be completely equivalent to the finally used flight unit concerning construction and electrical input and output parameters. Following this test philosophy a premature impairment of the flight unit by stress conditions during the tests could be avoided. At the same time it was necessary to find out wheter any occuring instrument failure was confined to the technological unit only, or was due to a principal mistake in the design of the instrument type. All test procedures to be applied to a certain instrument were summarized in a qualification test program. The qualification tests were performed at the Federal Experiment and Research Institute Arsenal (BVFA) in Vienna and at the Institute of Applied Systems Technology of Joanneum Research in Graz. Because of the tight time schedule several tests had to be organized and carried out at the same time which required considerable logistic effort.

Climatic and Vacuum Tests

In order to simulate the extreme temperatures during instrument transportation from Graz to Baikonur via Moscow, temperature stress from +50°C to -50°C was imposed to the units in their transportation packing. The instruments were exposed to these temperature conditions for a period according to their gross mass. The units were taken out from the climatic cabin afterwords, exposed to normal conditions for a certain period and tested under normal conditions to verify their correct functioning.

For the simulation of the climatic conditions on board the space station MIR the instruments in operation were exposed to different temperature, humidity, pressure and atmosphere conditions. Temperature tests for the working units were carried out at 0°C and +40°C for a period according to the net mass of the instruments, checking their correct function during and after temperature exposure. Functional tests at a relative humidity of 95% and a temperature of +20°C were performed as cyclic endurance tests lasting 3 days, in the course of which the instruments were exposed to a periodical change of humidity and temperature according to a defined time schedule. During each test the correct function of the instruments were checked.

Mechanical Tests

The resistance of the instruments against mechanical shock during ground transportation was tested by exposing them to semisinusodial concussions with an acceleration amplitude of 9 g and a duration of 5 – 10 ms. The instruments in their transportation packing were tightly attached to a vibration test block. 2500 of these shocks with a frequency of 1 Hz were imposed to the units in vertical, 1750 in longitudinal and 750 in lateral directions. Then the instruments were taken from the test block and their mechanical integrity and correct function was tested.

Mechanical stress conditions during the space flight were devided into 3 phases: Stress during rocket start and docking (phase A), during operation on board the space station (phase B) and stress caused by landing (phase C). All stress investigations were performed in three space-axes. After each test the mechanical integrity and correct function of the instruments were checked.

Electrical Tests

The scientific instruments were connected to the electrical system of the space station MIR during the flight. Therefore limits of tolerable parasitic voltage, produced by the instruments on the one hand, and robustness of the instruments against interference on the other hand were fixed by the Russian side.

In order to provide standardized measurements a balancing network of the energy supply system on board based on resistive, inductive and capacitive parameters of the station supply network to which each instrument was attached had to be designed. The frequency-selective tests were performed in a shielded cabin. In order to investigate the robustness of the instruments against interference a special generator was developed being able to supply the instruments with DC voltage superimposed by sinusodial interference voltage with variable frequency and amplitude, pulses with variable amplitude, width and slope and voltage steps of variable amplitude and frequency. In order to avoid instrument damage by overvoltage, the test supply voltage was adjusted first using loads equivalent to the respektive instruments. Having set the correct voltage parameters the simulation loads were exchanged by the instruments themselves and the correct instrument operation was checked. In order to accelerate the comprehensive test procedure and to improve the precision of voltage adjustment a computer aided test control system was designed.

Further Qualification Tests

A high acoustic noise level is a severe danger on health. In order to make work on board the space station MIR bearable, the noise limit for an instrument in operation was set to 60dB in a distance of one meter. All instruments containing moving mechanical parts were tested frequency-selectively in a sound studio.

To guarantee the reliability of the apparatures for the whole operation duration of 300 hours, the apparatures` durability was declared with a minimum of 2 years within the defined mount period. The apparatures` reserve had to be again a minimum of 300 hours. And for the mount period of the equipement was forced a minimum of 3 years.

Because the apparature KYMO-2 includes a local calculating- and measured data survey, there had to be made additional EMV-tests in the EMV-test center Seibersdorf. Further the communication and the data transfer with the apparature DATAMIR had to be tested.

Furthermore, all instruments used in medical experiments had to undergo a qualification procedure concerning medical applicability. A test person had to perform the whole experiment using the technological experiment hardware under control of Austrian and Soviet medical and technical experts.


Despite the enormous time pressure for the completion of the hardware, and the partial deferments during the development, and building of new apparatii as well as device tests, the devices, apart from the modified device KYMO-2 for the MIKROVIB, PULSTRANS, SLEEP, and NIGHT experiments, were qualified according to plan, delivered to Russia and brought to the MIR space station before the start of Phase RLF-2. The experiments were executed with the new methodology right at the beginning of the phase. Due to unforeseen complications during the development of KWMO-2, the deployment of this device had to be moved to the Phase RLF-3. All apparatus worked without problems throughout the whole mission. Most of it also remained on board afterwards and some of it remained even in use up to the controlled re-entry of the MIR space station in 2001.