. Human-Centric Design for Structures in UHV Applications

Case Study
Human-Centric Design for Structures in UHV Applications



AEON designs and manufactures components for use in UHV chambers, and recently secured a contract to design, analyse, and manufacture a large access platform. The platform will be used to facilitate assembly, integration, and verification activities on satellites weighing up to 1T and whilst situated inside the UK’s largest thermal vacuum chamber.

The access platform must be safe, configurable and versatile, ultra-clean and comprise materials and processes which are compatible with the environmental extremes associated with satellite test campaigns.

3D Access Model: Human-Centric Design for Structures in UHV Applications

Project Description

AEON encountered several challenges throughout this project. One of the more challenging problems were constraints associated with the available design envelope/space. The access platform has two extending walkways, arranged as cantilevers, meaning that the underside is not supported directly.

This mechanical arrangement means that, during use, the weight of operators will cause the walkways to bend; the amount being dependent on the total weight and how far along it is applied. Typically, this doesn’t pose a problem to structural engineers, as it is possible to either add more material/structure or elaborate the design for better strength and stiffness. Unfortunately, due to the platform residing in the chamber and additional structure negatively affecting the thermal performance of heater shrouds, AEON were unable to address the challenge this way. Instead, AEON were able to demonstrate an acceptable level of deflection through detailed analysis and selection of high-stiffness materials and structural beams.

Gravity displacement on access platform

Standards dictate that walkways must withstand a distributed load of 2000N/m2 and a 1500N load applied over a 200mm x 200mm area in the most unfavourable position. To satisfy the standard, the walkways must not deflect more than 1/200th of the length of the walkway. AEON selected several standard I-beams and calculated the most effective beam to be used. AEON’s engineers confirmed these calculations by performing detailed FEA (Finite Element Analysis).

Customer constraints define the maximum mass of the access platform to be 2500kg, however, AEON’s detailed analyses showed that to meet this specification, other requirements relating to deflection, performance, or safety standards would be compromised. By collaborating with the customer on this issue, and considering the potential risk to human life, the 2500kg constraint was revised.

Diagram showing stress on access platform

The customer’s test facility will serve as a ‘one stop shop’ for satellite testing. To this end, the satellites subject to testing may measure between 2m to 4.6m in width. As a configurable and versatile structure, there was a need for the access platform to adapt to this range of sizes.

AEON designed adaptable walkways, which will allow the customer to modify the width of the walkways to better accommodate a range of satellite sizes and form factors, therefore extracting maximum value from a singular system. Three different sizes of floorplates provide the ability to change width, and can be configured to accommodate any sized satellite.


AEON continue to develop this project aiming for delivery in the first quarter of 2023.

If you have a project that AEON can help with, please get in touch, we’d love to discuss your requirements.