Connectors in orbit

Harwin has announced that the Delfi-C3 nano satellite, which uses the companys 2mm pitch Datamate series to connect to solar cells and other instrumentation, has now been launched and is orbiting about 630km above the earth, successfully achieving its mission having sent back over 270000 telemetry frames to date. Developed at the faculty of Aerospace Engineering at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, Delfi-C3 is based on the CubeSat concept and measures 10x10x30cm. Normally in space exploration D subminiature connector types might be used. But CubeSats can only weigh a maximum of 1kg, so D types are too heavy and the required matching cable harnessing would account for a disproportionately large amount of the weight of the craft.

So Harwins 2mm pitch Datamate (M80) connectors have been chosen. Conforming to British Standard 9525-F0033 they can withstand high levels of shock, acceleration and vibration in addition to surviving a large number of mating cycles, all without loss of performance. They also operate perfectly under extremes of temperature a necessary consideration in space, as satellites are alternately facing directly into, or away from the sun.

The contact features a four-finger beryllium copper clip to ensure integrity of connection even under the most severe conditions. Datamate connectors come with crimp or PC tails (vertical and horizontal), in surface mount and through hole versions, and with extra-secure jackscrew and latching options. Datamate connectors can feature mixed contact technologies including signal, power, and coax.