Rubber materials are popular in a wide range of industries, and none more so than in aviation and aerospace. Their durability and reliability make rubber materials an excellent choice for use in space. Certain rubber materials can withstand a range of aerospace fluids, rocket fuels, hydraulic fluids, oxidisers, and more. To find out more about which rubber materials are used in space, continue reading TRP Polymer’s guide below.
Rubber materials’ ability to withstand extreme environmental conditions are the reason for their popularity within a wide range of industries, but especially aerospace and aeronautical. Rubber can also be very cost-effective thanks to its durability and reliability because of its long lifespan, despite operating in extreme conditions.
Durability is just one of the many positive aspects that rubber provides for the aerospace industry. Here are more reasons why rubber materials are used in space:
High endurance threshold under extreme stresses
No need for lubrication between parts
Maintenance and upkeep is rare, leading to long lifespan
Sound and shock absorption
Seals, O-rings and electrical products are used in various applications in the space sector. Seals can commonly be found on fuel systems for monopropellant (hydrazine or ADN), fuels and oxidisers (hydrogen peroxide), and various other media.
TRP Polymer Solutions have also manufactured seals for hydrogen electrolysers that are also used within the space sector. At TRP, we also produce high radiation-resistant materials with many years of service in those conditions. These materials have over 10 years of test data and encompass the following polymers: EPDM, NBR, FKM, and Silicone.
Our rubber materials have been used in high-pressure plasma (argon at 20,000 psi) conditions without rupture. This may be suitable for use with pulsed plasma thrusters used in space.
Some of the applications where TRP’s rubber materials are used in the space sector are::
Low earth orbit satellites
We have manufactured various materials for use in space, and have proven materials, these include:
Highly damping butyl rubber
Specialist EPDM designed for use in propellants
Low temperature FFKM TRPlast LT-45 offering outstanding low temperature capabilities combined with exceptional chemical resistance
The butyl rubber manufactured at TRP Polymer has an IRHD hardness rating of 60 and has been designed for use in reaction wheels for micro satellites (Microsats). This material is formulated to maximise damping characteristics.
Reaction wheels help to stabilise spacecraft while in orbit and can provide excellent manoeuvring capabilities without the use of fuel.
Our specialist EPDM had to be formulated without the use of the following materials: Carbon Black, Silica, Sulphur, Potassium, Chlorine, Fluorine, Sodium, Zirconium, Calcium, Aluminium, and Zinc.
This material was tested and did not show any discoloration of A.D.N monopropellant, nor were there any trace chemicals found that could poison catalysts or clog microthrusters. This material was produced as a membrane that lined a monopropellant fuel bag for a 1U, 2U and 3U sized tank.
The material also needed to maintain good physical properties despite the restrictions on ingredient that could be used in its formulation.
Our low temperature FFKM, TRPlast LT-45G is used successfully with propellants used within the space sector. It is commonly used for O-Ring applications and its proprietary low temperature technology allows it to function in low temperature environments beyond the capabilities of standard FFKM materials, whilst maintaining exceptional chemical resistance.
It has an operational temperature from -45°C to 240°C and has been used with nitrous oxide and propane propellants. Because this material has long-term sealing capability, it is suited for use in reusable launch vehicles, and with a wide variety of propellants such as liquid oxygen, methane, A.D.N, hydrazine, Xenon, water or ammonia.
TRP Polymer Solutions don’t just have materials used in space. A lot of the chemicals manufactured for space use are extremely pure and any contaminants are likely to damage equipment. TRP has a long history of successful service in the chemical processing industry and has off-the-shelf solutions for severe applications.
We specialise in working with customers to develop bespoke materials for their unique applications, and can work with them to carry out testing and validation of materials.
We work with our customers to decrease the risk of failures with improved product designs. In one particular application, TRP designed a product that not only replaced four O-Rings, which were difficult to install, it also provided a secondary sealing bead to reduce the risk of fluid bypassing the seal.