Nearspace Environmental Chamber


If you’re going to send some hardware up to 100,000 feet, where atmospheric pressure is 1% of what we enjoy on the surface and temperatures swing down to where Fahrenheit and Celsius don’t matter anymore, you might want to do a bit of testing to make sure everything works before launch. With a few bits of PVC, though, that’s a piece of cake.

There were several environmental conditions to take into consideration; the near vacuum experienced by high altitude balloons would be replicated by a refrigerator compressor, the increased solar flux is simulated by a light bulb, and the cold temperatures provided by a chunk of dry ice.

For a proper high altitude, low temperature environmental chamber the test payload should be cooled down via radiation with tubes filled with liquid nitrogen embedded in the walls. This is the NASA way of doing things, but for the budget of $200, [arko]‘s chamber simulates a high altitude environment just fine.

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A vacuum chamber from a pressure cooker

[Allan] needed a small vacuum chamber to get all the air out of clear casting resin. Degassing is a simple step in casting that improves the finished product immensely. The problem, though, is building a vacuum chamber. [Allan]‘s chamber seems easy enough to build, and pulls enough air out to get to 0.1 atmospheres.

After a hole was drilled in the side of the pressure cooker, [Allan] installed a 15mm “speedfit” plastic tank connector. The seal around the connector is neoprene self-adhesive foam. This foam was also taped around the lip of the pressure cooker for the top.

A thick-walled pressure cooker is more than capable of handling the outside pressure when under vacuum, but [Allan] cautions against using acrylic plastic for the top. Acrylic has the tendency to fail catastrophically, so he used a thick sheet of Lexan. Check out the demo video of [Allan] sucking the air out of shaving cream after the break.

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