September 27th, 2012
When television viewers around the world watched the fantastic images sent to Earth by the Mars Rover Curiosity, which landed on Mars in August, they did not know that Saint-Gobain Seals helped to make it possible.
The Atlas V rocket engine, which launched Curiosity into space last year in November, used Saint-Gobain Seals' OmniSeal® spring-energized seals on both the Atlas booster stage and the Centaur second stage systems. The more than 60 high-performance seals were made from “Fluoroloy®” material at the plant in Garden Grove, California, and were utilized in fluid/gas connections, pressurization systems, propellant pumps and other parts of the rocket.
In addition to these OmniSeal® spring-energized seals, Saint-Gobain Seals' Rulon® material was used in many of the different ball bearings on the Curiosity rover itself. These ball bearings were installed in the robotic arms, drill tools and surface removal tools for material sampling on Mars. The Rulon® material was selected due to its low friction, self-lubricating and low wear advantages.
That is not all. Once it landed, Curiosity used a product with a Saint-Gobain component to check out the Martian landscape. Saint-Gobain Crystals supplied a special orange “scintillating plastic” material used in the Rover’s radiation detector. Made at the Hiram, Ohio, plant, the material scintillates when exposed to radiation. The scintillations are converted into signals which NASA can interpret to determine the radioactivity of the Martian surface.