Eichenberger Gewinde ball screws for aggressive environment in space

Posted 5 October 2020
viti a ricircolo Eichenberger Gewinde avvitamenti stazione spaziale ISS

Three robust, corrosion-resistant ball screws with end cap ball return by Eichenberger Gewinde, Carry Type KGE 16 x 16, ensure safe docking procedures of the space glider Dream Chaser, in its rendez-vous with the ISS in orbit.

Reliability is the highest priority for the space shuttle service. Its robustness and resilience in the harsh, unfavourable orbit environment plays an essential part, and meticulous accuracy is also vital. The space shuttle can fly with or without a crew, and offers room for up to seven astronauts in the space glider. The Dream Chaser could for example be used as a research platform, to transport people or freight into space to actively remove space junk from orbit.

The first major hurdle for the application, after the strenuous rocket launch with extreme acceleration and vibrations, is the vacuum. It has an effect on everything that is liquid or that can evaporate, also including lubricants. Grease that is solid on earth, evaporates in a vacuum. That is why mobile parts must be able to comply with maximum service life requirements, even without lubrication.

Temperature extremes are also challenging. The temperature of the components in orbit depends on the material that faces the sun, and – 50°C to + 90°C is expected on the docking station. Additionally, ultra-violet light, X-rays, particles with a high energy charge and atmospheric atoms have an impact on the material which becomes more prone to corrosion.

Eichenberger is therefore proving that the advanced characteristics of the Inox ball screw Carry, with integrated high-performance plastic in the ball return, are able to withstand the aggressive environment of space, ensuring function as well as resisting corrosion and wear. In addition, cold-rolling threads creates very precise geometries with a high surface quality. As opposed to grinding, milling or turning, during milling, the material’s longitudinal fibres are not cut but diverted. The result is a compressed and extremely resilient surface which has been rolled smooth, which is essential for the long service life of a screw.

Finally, thanks to the innovative Hard-Inox P treatment, the highest requirements concerning surface hardness and corrosion resistance of stainless steel were fulfilled.

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