The diversifying space industry is delivering innovative concepts, such as autonomous exploration vehicles, solar sails, internet satellite constellations, space junk removal and reusable spacecraft. Like many other innovative technologies, these designs depend on precise motion components that reliably work as planned in space.
Although mechanical systems typically behave differently in space than on earth, it still makes sense to review standard products as a starting point for your design before going all-in on a customized motion component. After all, reliability is paramount in space applications, and motion product specialists will have years of experience and application data gleaned from that standard component. This information will help them determine the product elements that will perform reliably in space, as well as those elements that will need modification or replacement.
Here are some points to consider as you begin specifying a motion product for space applications:
- Linear guides. Our linear guides and rails have proven reliability in space onboard autonomous exploration vehicles. They offer exceptional metallurgical properties that deliver smooth, accurate motion with good rigidity and a long lifetime. Many linear guides have interchangeable parts, allowing you to modify the guides for conditions in space.
- Crossed roller bearings (CRB). With modifications to withstand vacuums and low temperatures, CRBs can operate reliably onboard spacecraft, such as in radar dishes on miniature WiFi satellites that send signals to ground-based systems. Their small size also makes them ideal for swivel mechanisms in military surveillance cameras.
- Cam followers. Widely used to convert rotary motion to linear motion for twisting, turning or pulling, cam followers are well suited for opening or closing antennae or solar panels on space stations and satellites. Our cam followers feature a small coefficient of friction, excellent rotational performance — designed for outer ring revolution — and high load capacities.
Starting with a standard product is not only practical, it can also be the most economically viable option. With a few modifications for the space environment, the standard part can be significantly less expensive than creating an exotic part that may ultimately prove to be cost-prohibitive to the mission.
Once you understand the design options to achieve your objective, be sure to engage with a company with extensive motion expertise and engineering capabilities early in the process. Not only can they deliver the final product, they can be your design partner along the way.
Although the aerospace industry presents motion challenges, we use our extensive range of standard linear guides, CRBs and cam followers as a foundation, enabling us to easily modify and custom-engineer components that will meet your expectations during its mission — and beyond.
For more information, download our white paper.