Proceedings PaperDevelopment of a range of small mechanical cryocoolers for space and avionic applications
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Lucas Aerospace. Engine Systems Division, has been involved with small mechanical cryocoolers since 1978, the initial work carried out between 1978 and 1984, comprised an evaluation of the various cooling cycle options available to cool military Infra Red Detectors in the 80K to 90K temperature range together with initial build and testing of early prototype units of the chosen Reverse Split Stirling Cycle machines (See FIG 3). These initial protypes and the subsequent modified designs produced between 1984 and 1986 were based on work carried out at Oxford University by Dr Gordon Davey and Dr Anna Orlowska, who both acted as consultants to Lucas Aerospace. It was felt that this design of cryocooler with its non-contacting seals and absence of any bearings or lubrication of any kind, offered the best solution for a lông life cooler. This design has been developed by Lucas Aerospace over the past 6 years, initially for Military (Avionics) applications and more recently for space applications. The change in emphasis to space applications came about in 1988 when Lucas Aerospace signed an agreement with Lockheed Missile and Space Company (LMSC) of Palo Alto, California to jointly develop a range of Cryocoolers for Space Applications. It was recognised by Lockheed that whilst they had a considerable capability with space rated Solid Cryogen coolers built up over many years experience in space, with the current trend for longer duration space missions of between 5 and 10 years, these coolers would carry very large weight and size penalties in meeting these requirements. Lockheed felt that the best option for these long life space missions, for cooling the various infra-red detectors in the 55K to 80K temperature range, was the small mechanical cryocooler being developed by Lucas Aerospace. This joint development programme is proceeding apace with three Cryocoolers being delivered to Lockheed for performance and vibration testing.