An Evaluation of Liquid, Solid, and Grease Lubricants for Space Mechanisms Using a Spiral Orbit TribometerWe present the findings of the test program performed by The European Space Tribology Laboratory (ESTL) to evaluate the performance (friction and lifetime) of a number of space lubricants under vacuum using a Spiral Orbit Tribometer (SOT). Focus was given to a comparison of various popular space oils, a comparison study between the old and new MAPLUB grease formulations, and the performance of commonly used solid lubricants under various conditions. Tests demonstrated that the lifetimes of hydrocarbon NYE oils 2001 & 2001A outperformed those of the perfluroropolyalkylether (PFPE) oils Fomblin Z25 & Z60, though these pairs displayed similar behavior. This relationship was also generally seen for greases; with the lifetimes of the multiple alkylated cyclopentane (MAC)-based greases being extended in comparison to the PFPE-based greases. Testing on greases also demonstrated similar performance between the old (-a) and new (-b) formulations when considering PFPE-based MAPLUB greases, and indeed for all tested PFPE-based non-MAPLUB greases, but significantly shorter lifetimes for the new formulations when considering MAC-based MAPLUB greases. MAPLUB MAC greases containing molybdenum disulphide (MoS2) thickener were also found to display reduced lifetimes. For solid lubricants, lead displayed significantly extended lifetimes over MoS2, speculated to be caused by redistribution of lead from the ball onto all contact surfaces during the test. Friction coefficients were seen to be some 2.5x higher for lead than for MoS2 under similar conditions, a result that corresponds well with conventional bearing tests. The work described was performed under contract for the European Space Agency as part of the Tribology Applications Program, with all funding for testing and apparatus provided by European Space Agency (ESA).
Buttery, Michael (European Space Tribology Lab. Warrington, United Kingdom)
August 29, 2013
May 12, 2010
Publication: Proceedings of the 40th Aerospace Mechanisms Symposium