Shouldering the Load of Space: The Importance of Precision Bearings in Space Living


As humanity continues to make strides towards space habitation and exploration, the role of precision engineering and technology is becoming increasingly important. The article explains that precision bearings, the components that reduce friction in machinery, play a critical role in ensuring the reliability and safety of spacecraft systems.

The challenges of operating in the harsh space environment include extreme temperature fluctuations, lack of atmospheric pressure, and high levels of radiation. These conditions can cause materials to warp or malfunction, endangering the integrity of critical systems. Precision bearings, therefore, need to be engineered to withstand these conditions and to ensure the smooth functioning of various systems including propulsion, trajectory adjustments, and energy efficiency.

Meeting the Aerospace First Article Inspection Requirement AS9102 standard is critical in the design and manufacture of these bearings. This standard sets precise engineering requirements for the bearing itself, ensuring its compatibility with the demanding conditions of space.

Materials used in the construction of precision bearings are crucial for their performance in space. The article mentions stainless steel as a suitable material for vacuum applications due to its low outgassing properties. Molybdenum Disulfide (MoS2) coatings are also mentioned as beneficial because they serve as an effective dry lubricant in space, reducing friction and enhancing efficiency and performance.

Tungsten disulphide (WS2) is another dry coating used in space applications, which similar to MoS2, reduces friction allowing bearings to operate at low speeds without further lubrication. Other materials mentioned include PEEK, a low outgassing material with high resistance to temperatures, chemicals, oils, and fuels, and full ceramic silicon nitride bearings, which perform well in vacuum environments and can run at low speeds without lubrication.

As companies like NASA prepare for their upcoming missions, such as the Artemis 2 lunar mission scheduled for 2025, the role of precision bearings in ensuring the sustainability and success of these missions becomes even more emphasized. The article concludes by stating that precision bearings could pave the way for humanity’s next big leap in space exploration.



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