Your Source for Designing Critical Parts in Core Systems:
In 2018, the global space economy grew over eight percent to exceed $400 billion worldwide, and global launches exceeded 100 for the first time since 1990, says The Space Foundation. In addition to organizations and countries typically associated with early space exploration, one country that is emerging in this space is India, with its “Make in India” initiative to focus on innovation and advancement in the area. This growth has propelled long-term space partners like Saint-Gobain Seals to not only strengthen their existing local presence in India but also strengthen their seals product line.
How is this manufacturing business achieving this? By building a new local manufacturing site in Bangalore with a team of design and application engineering experts and offering both polymer and metal sealing solutions to address the requirements needed for extreme space applications.
For the past few years, Saint-Gobain Seals has been extending their space footprint in Asia, sharing their expertise at key events such as the Bengaluru Space Expo, where the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) teamed up with the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) and Antrix (the commercial arm of the Department of Space) in order to build a stronger and vibrant ecosystem for the manufacturing of satellites, space technology and applications. Located in Bengaluru and formed in 1969, ISRO is the government agency dedicated to further advancement of space in India. With an annual budget that has increased to over ₹10,000 crore ($1.45 billion) today, from ₹6,000 crore five years ago, its vision is to “harness space technology for national development while pursuing space science research & planetary exploration.”
Some impressive firsts resulting from India’s focus on space include:
- The ISRO’s first satellite, Aryabhata, launched by the Soviet Union on April 19, 1975.
- The country’s first satellite to be placed into orbit by an Indian-made launch vehicle, Rohini, in 1980.
- The ISRO debuting its three-stage, medium-lift expendable Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, Mark III, with geostationary orbit capabilities and higher payload suitable for future crewed space missions, in 2017.
- India’s growing emergence as a leader in launching satellites for others with almost 270 satellites from 32 countries launched with its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket since 1993.
- India launched its second lunar mission with an orbiter, lander, and rover, to study the lunar geology and water, with Chandrayaan-2, this past July.
Future plans include development of a reusable launch vehicle, human spaceflight (expected in 2022 with its Gaganyaan), lunar landing, interplanetary probes and more.
Additionally, India has begun the process of establishing a Space Activities Bill designed to underwrite costs of damage should a private satellite or rocket have an accident that exceeds what is covered by insurance. The U.S., France, and Europe have similar legislation. The goal is to encourage domestic private rocket and satellite companies to offer services for Indian and global customers.
Private/public partnership plans—or commercial relationships with the Government of India for private sector entities to provision public assets/services—are also making it easier for these companies to enter the space arena. As a result, many private start-ups are emerging.
Polymer Seals and Their Critical Part
With space exploration on the rise, the need for seals to help ensure efficiency, cost and sustainability is also growing. When challenging media is involved, even the smallest of leaks in a seal can result in catastrophic damage to an entire system and beyond. This is especially true in space applications where ignitable liquids are present such as fuel tanks.
Numerous factors go into determining which seal is the best for the job in space applications, with polymer and metal seals both viable and reliable options. Finding the best solution requires several factors to be weighed. And while there will never be zero leakage with any seal, determining the best option is frequently about obtaining a good balance between leakage and other parameters to ensure acceptable levels.
Saint-Gobain Seals has been providing advanced polymer parts for NASA space exploration programs since the late 1950s, and today helps to supply these parts for agencies in countries throughout the world, as well as private space companies. Its OmniSeal® RACO® spring-energized seals were used on the Atlas V rocket that launched the Mars Rover Curiosity, in the slip joint system in the Delta IV heavy rocket and in fuel delivery in Falcon 9. These seals are also often used in cryogenic environments in space. Comprised of a Fluoroloy® jacket energized by a corrosion resistant, heavy duty/high load spring, OmniSeal® RACO® spring-energized seals offers a high spring force on the lip.
Some advantages of these polymer seals include:
- Can operate with little to no maintenance, and
- Can address extreme temperatures (20K to 423K [-253°C to +200°C]), and
- Pressures (UHV to 100 MPa)
Today, they are regularly used in propulsion and payload systems, ground equipment, structures and tanks, and in micro-satellites to facilitate global communications (in villages in India and Africa), as well as to assist with GPS, weather tracking, and earthquake warning, to name a few.
Metal Seals and Their Critical Part
Another major trend in India, and globally, is a greater focus on cryogenic and semi-cryogenic engines and cryogenic propulsion technology, requiring seals to address very low temperatures and leakage levels. While polymers may often address these requirements, metal seals may be an excellent alternative in certain high pressure, low temperature environments where very low leakage levels are required. This is especially true in static applications in HP cryo tanks or turbo pumps where the leakage requirement is very tight.
The acquisition of American Seal and Engineering Co. (ASE) and their AmeriSeal™ metal sealing products earlier this year further expanded Saint-Gobain Seals’ offerings to address high temperatures, high pressures and corrosive media. With over 50 years of metal forming knowledge, Saint-Gobain ASE designs and manufactures metal seals that are typically made with a multi-stage metal forming process primarily using super alloys.
The metal seals are designed specifically to address:
- Pressure ranges from vacuum to 100,000 psi (689 MPa)
- Internal, external, bi-directional and axial pressure orientations
- Temperature ranges from cryogenic to 1,950ºF (1,065ºC)
- Leakage rates greater up to 10-10 cc/sec He
- High temperature, radiation, vacuum, high pressure, corrosive or toxic environments where the media being contained is either a liquid or a gas
Saint-Gobain Seals’ Sealing Universe: A Diverse Range of Solutions
Aside from polymer and metal sealing solutions, the business also provides additional solutions for space applications with their Rulon® PTFE material bearings, such as those used in robotic arms, drill tools and surface removal tools for material sampling on the Mars Curiosity Rover. Meldin® thermoplastic and thermoset polyimide valves, joints and bushings help reduce weight and offer good mechanical integrity even at cryogenic temperatures, and in contact with fluids.
Finally, Saint-Gobain HyComp is able to address the increasing demand for composite parts given the growing cost of fuel and the need for lighter-weight parts in large structural components to mechanical parts in power generation, environmental control, fluid, landing gear, braking and actuation systems, as well as in engines. Advanced carbon fiber composites are known for providing high strength and stiffness, in addition to being able to withstand high temperatures.
A Global Leader with A Local Presence
With the push from the Government in India and ISRO for “Make in India” and upcoming work on rockets, satellites and ground equipment locally, Saint-Gobain Seals is excited about the new, local manufacturing site in Bangalore to better address India’s growing leadership position in this industry and others. This local site allow the business to better address area requirements, provide even faster project execution, response time and delivery; less expensive parts; and faster service, while capitalizing on proven designs, application knowledge, manufacturing excellence, and engineering. With a complete range of solutions at Saint-Gobain Seals, they are able to provide customers the best technical and commercial alternatives while addressing sealing requirements from acceptable leakage levels, to weight reduction, ease of installation and working with deflections or deformations intrinsic to rocket applications.
As new projects come up from ISRO such as manned space missions, Mars missions and space stations, and with the budding startup community, the business is confident that they will be able to support and solve these future challenges. They continue to extend their footprint in India, exhibiting at the National Conference for Cryogenics in Space in Thiruvananthapuram, India. Please contact us for an appointment or stop by our booth.
In the meantime, get our white paper for more on what manufacturers need to know about essential aspects of seals in space. Download “Sealing Solutions in Critical Cryogenic Space Applications: Going Beyond Leakage Rate” today!