Airbus Defence and Space

Micronics flowmeters used in space industry

The largest aeronautics and Space Company in Europe, one of the top ten defence companies in the world and the world’s second largest space company after Boeing uses 4 Micronics U1000 flowmeters to warn of water supply failure to Vacuum Turbo pumps and Heating & Cooling plant for 4 vacuum chambers at the Airbus Space facility in Portsmouth. Ian Hallam, a Thermal Vacuum Engineer searched the internet when the existing flowmeters situated on water pipes became clogged with sediment, which meant that existing flowmeters did not register if there was an interruption to the water supply. If the heating and cooling plant water supply fails then the plant trips and they lose control over the heating and cooling of the vacuum chamber, but more importantly if the water supply to the vacuum turbo pumps is interrupted the pumps may overheat  and trip out or even seize up. If the vacuum pumps stop pumping then the chamber loses its vacuum. This can be catastrophic for the satellites or sub assemblies being tested in the vacuum chambers, as if space vacuum is lost with the units powered up they can be damaged by a phenomenon called Corona Discharge. So they needed a reliable system which would alarm at the first sign of water flow interruption, so any satellites or sub assemblies being tested in the vacuum chambers could be turned off before space vacuum was lost, unless the supply problem could be quickly rectified.

Therefore there was an absolute requirement to find flowmeters which would not be affected by sediment.  The Micronics flowmeters were perfect for the job. “We received a lot of support from the Micronics team so we were totally satisfied with our choice,” says Ian Hallam.

The U1000 offered a quick and reliable flow measurement solution. One of its main features is the fact that it is non-invasive meaning that there was no need to cut into pipes which, in turn meant that installation costs were minimal because the system did not need to be drained down during installation, operation or servicing. Hence, costly and disruptive downtime is kept to a minimum, absolutely vital in the space industry due to tight delivery schedules to meet fixed launch dates. It is configured for pipe size so there is nominal configuration on site and with its easy to follow menu it proved to be a cost-effective alternative to a traditional in-line meter installation. In addition dry servicing is possible so that downtime is kept to a minimum. Its operation has proved exceptional.

Airbus designs and manufactures advanced satellites and systems for telecommunications, Earth observation, navigation and science programmes. Airbus is a global leader in designing, manufacturing and delivering aerospace products and a commercial aircraft manufacturer, with Space and Defence as well as Helicopters Divisions.

For further information on this project or the Micronics range call Micronics on +44(0)1628 810456, or visit

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