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CAM Software Takes Off – Supports NASA Star Mission

A Massachusetts computerized machine shop creates critical camera-mount brackets using Open Mind Technologies’ hyperMILL CAM software. Ramco Machine achieves the necessary tight tolerances with 5-axis machining of a nickel-iron alloy that holds up to launches and the temperature swings of outer space.

Artist concept of TESS Spacecraft. Image Courtesy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Mounting brackets are shown on a camera-mount holder mock-up.
hyperMILL generated a 5-axis profile finish tool path for Ramco's camera-mount brackets.

An advanced NASA satellite mission has discovered its first circumbinary planet – a world orbiting two stars – and parts fabricator Ramco Machine, LLC (Rowley, MA) is on board and contributing to the future of space exploration. Using hyperMILL CAM software from Open Mind Technologies, (Needham, MA) for 5-axis machining, Ramco makes parts for the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission.

In 2017, Ramco was contracted by MIT Lincoln Laboratory (Lincoln, MA) to fabricate the critical camera-mount brackets for an important NASA TESS satellite mission. NASA’s TESS mission is designed to explore and survey nearby bright stars to analyze planets, both smaller and larger than Earth, as the planets circle their host stars and the earth orbits the sun. In 2018, a solar powered in-space satellite equipped with four ultrasensitive cameras was launched aboard a two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on its way beyond Earth’s solar system to outer space. The four-camera system developed at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory monitors the brightness of more than 200,000 stars and searches for minute drops in brightness as the planets transit in front of each star.

Making the mounting brackets required machining Invar, a nickel-iron alloy with a low thermal expansion coefficient that can withstand the rigors of launch and compensate for the extreme temperature swings of outer space. The mounting bracket has exceedingly tight tolerances – the central rib’s thickness is .050″ +/- .001″, perpendicularity between surfaces is held to .001″ and the bracket’s two opposing surfaces must be in-line with each other to within .001″.

To cut Invar and achieve the required tolerances, Ramco used a hyperMILL generated 5-axis profile finish tool path. This produced an accurate finish across each part and kept them within the tight tolerances. Click here to read more on how Ramco is using hyperMILL CAM software for efficient 5-axis machining.





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