Sierra Instruments, Inc.

NASA`s secret weapon


Courtesy of Sierra Instruments, Inc.

Thermal Flowmeters Helps NASA Get the Right Mixture

Early developments in rhe evolution of mass flowmeters in rhe 1930s were largely driven by rhe need for highly-accurate readings. Over the last 50 years, rhe demand for siibstanrially-rediiced margins of error has only intensified. Sierra Instruments recently introduced a new series of meters daat would allow customers to field-validate instrument performance. Starting-point accuracy was built-in at the factory where each meter was calibrated. That data was then stored in the meters microprocessor. In the field, validating became as simple as comparing the meters sensing element reading to data stored in memory. Specialized software then allowed users to troublcshoot, validate and re-configure from a PC.

For the last 25 years, NASA has relied on the accuracy of Sierra Side-Trak© Model 830 and 840 thermal mass flowmeters to get the right mixture of nitrogen, argon and oxygen to their shuttles during ground testing.

Steve Chism, a sales agent For Sierra in Orlando, Florida, identified a way NASA could upgrade the outdated Technology they were using to maintain positive space shuttle cargo door air flow on reentry. He was convinced that Sierras Model 780S thermal mass flow meter was ideal for this mission-critical mncrion.

Small, compact, accurate and easy to move from shuttle to shuttle, NASA agreed to give the 780S a try and was immediately delighted with its performance. However, within six months a red flag went up when a third party calibrator reported a 10 percent margin of error. Sierra immediately hired CEESI, a world-renowned calibration consultant in Colorado, to conduct an in-depth field test. CEESI determined, conclusively, that Sierra's meters performed well within specifications.

NASA's Constclla tion Project includes the combination of large and small systems that will make it possible for NASA to travel and explore the solar system in the next decade. Sierras Smart-Irak® Model 100, the next generation upgrade for the 830 and 840 a, is currently being reviewed by NASA for (he role it will play in NASAs vision.

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