Expectations sky-high for aerospace testing chamber of BIC tenant

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PITTSFIELD — A year after opening its facility in Pittsfield, Colorado-based Electro Magnetic Applications has installed an aerospace testing chamber at the Berkshire Innovation Center.

The 3-foot-by-5-foot stainless steel chamber arrived in Pittsfield late last week, according to EMA's principal scientist, Justin McKennon. The installation process was completed Wednesday.

But, the chamber isn't quite operational yet. McKennon said vacuum pumps and radiation sources have yet to be installed on the chamber, and that vacuum testing is expected to take place over the next couple of weeks.

"Hopefully, we'll have commercial programs in here in about a month or so," he said. "And, we'll be fully operational in March. That's our working plan.

"It's a big stainless steel vessel and it's got a ton of ports on the back," McKennon said when asked to describe the chamber. "It looks like you're trying to brew beer in space; I guess that's how everybody tries to describe it."

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Since arriving in Pittsfield last fall, EMA has received more than $200,000 in municipal funding, including a tax break and an additional $25,000 in state tax credits. EMA purchased the chamber for $60,000, McKennon said. But, getting the chamber up and running is expected to put the company's total investment at about $275,000.

The company has four employees and is hiring a fifth, McKennon said. A sixth will be added when the chamber is up and running in the spring.

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The aerospace testing chamber will re-create an outer space environment designed to test materials and equipment that are used on manned and unmanned spacecraft. Testing of those materials is done to determine how they will perform in space.

The chamber will be used to test materials used in space programs or on satellites, including solar panels and power devices, sensors, components and new spacesuits.

"As long as it fits" into the device, "that's the key," McKennon said. "The idea is that whatever we put in there will experience the orbit and the radiation profile for wherever it is in space."

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EMA also recently was selected to support the design of supersonic aircraft company Aerion's new AS2 supersonic private business jet, which is expected to begin production in 2023. The AS2, designed to be inherently environmentally responsible from first flight, is the first supersonic jet designed with the ability to accept 100 percent synthetic fuel and reach supersonic speeds without the need for an afterburner, according to Aerion. Afterburners are additional combustion components on jet engines that increase thrust and often are used on supersonic aircraft.

The design work will take place at both of EMA's U.S. facilities, in Pittsfield and Lakewood, Colo., McKennon said.

EMA, founded in 1977, provides simulation, consulting and measurement services in the technical areas of electromagnetic effects. It was one of the first companies to use electromagnetic simulation to solve challenging electromagnetic problems for the aerospace market, which the company entered in the 2000s.

Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or 413-281-2755.


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