Navigating the Skies: A flawed fastener can make or break your mission

A flawed fastener can make or break your mission

Share This Post

A recent article about NASA opening a canister containing material scraped from the “potentially hazardous” asteroid Bennu caught our eye. As stated in the article, “NASA had already collected 2.5 ounces (70 g) of the sample from the canister’s lid, but two stuck fasteners stopped scientists from reaching the material inside.” Thankfully, this was only a canister lid; fastener issues can cause catastrophic damage and compromise the success of your entire mission.

They did eventually get the fasteners unstuck, but what caused this issue in the first place?

When an object that has been in space is returned to Earth, it may face challenges related to fasteners due to the harsh conditions of space travel. Exposure to the vacuum of space, extreme temperatures, radiation, and microgravity can affect the materials and mechanisms of fasteners. For instance, prolonged exposure to space may lead to the contraction or expansion of materials, making fasteners more resistant to movement.

The accumulation of space debris, such as micrometeoroids or cosmic dust, could also impact the fastener’s functionality. These particles may infiltrate and interfere with the intricate components of the fastener, making it more challenging to operate as intended. Also, rapid temperature changes during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere can cause thermal stress on the fastener, potentially affecting its structural integrity. If the fastener has experienced significant wear and tear during its space journey, it may become seized or jammed, making it difficult to open upon return to Earth.

What must be considered when selecting a fastener for an aerospace application?

Some materials are better suited to withstand the challenges and exposure to the harsh conditions of space while maintaining their functionality. When selecting a fastener for an aerospace application there are a lot of variables that need to be taken into consideration. A flawed fastener can cost an entire mission… and potentially a lot more.

When selecting materials for aerospace application fasteners, consider:

  • Corrosion-resistance: Opt for materials that are resistant to corrosion, as exposure to space can subject fasteners to various elements that may accelerate corrosion. Stainless steel or titanium alloys are known for their corrosion resistance.
  • Low-temperature resistance: Space exploration is characterized by extreme temperatures, and it is best to select an alloy that remains pliable at incredibly low temperatures. This can help prevent fasteners from becoming brittle and challenging to manipulate upon return to Earth.
  • Thermal stability: Choose materials with excellent thermal stability to withstand the rapid temperature changes during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Alloys with a high melting point can resist deformation under extreme heat.
  • Self-lubrication: Incorporate self-lubricating materials into the fastener design to reduce friction and prevent the accumulation of debris. This can contribute to smooth operation even after prolonged exposure to space conditions.
  • Precision engineering: Ensure fasteners are precisely engineered and manufactured to tight tolerances. This helps maintain the integrity of the fastener’s mechanism and reduces the likelihood of jamming or seizing.
  • Space-tested materials: Choose materials with a proven track record in aerospace applications, such as aluminum, steel, titanium, and super alloys (Inconel, Hastelloy, Waspaloy, and others). Materials that have been successfully used in previous missions are more likely to withstand the challenges of the space environment.

How can fasteners from UC Components, Inc. help make your mission successful?

UC Components, Inc. has been the world leader in clean-critical hardware since 1974. We offer a variety of fasteners and O-rings, including, but not limited to, standard and vented screws, washers, and hex nuts. We offer numerous finish options, specialized venting designs, complete custom product development, and Class 100/ISO Class 5 Cleanroom cleaning & packaging. View our parts catalog online to find the components you need, request a quote, or contact us for more assistance or additional information. If you do not see the fastener, material, or O-ring that you need listed in our standard products, please give us a call! We may not stock it, but we are happy to acquire or manufacture just about any fastener or O-ring you need.

More To Explore

Talk to an Expert Now!
408-782-1929 Get Custom Quote