May 21st, 2018
Saint-Gobain Seals is exhibiting at the Toulouse Space Show from June 26 to 28, Booth #C3, to share their sealing and polymer solutions as well as celebrate the 60th anniversary of their OmniSeal® RACO® spring-energized seal. Organized in cooperation with CNES (French Space Research Centre), the event is attended by more than 3,000 worldwide participants and is a major global forum dedicated to novel space solutions that highlight future trends and the new space economy.
Selected for many space applications because of its precise fit and lifetime confidence, the RACO® seal was developed in the 1950s and was a part of NASA’s early space programs such as Mercury and Gemini followed by the Apollo and Shuttle programs. Saint-Gobain Seals’ most recent project with NASA is the Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket in the world, where they are providing large diameter seals that are more than six feet wide. Aside from working with NASA, the business is also supporting new players in the fast growing private launch vehicles market.
One of the key reasons that the RACO® spring-energized seal has been selected in the past 60 years is due to its proven success rate in space applications with challenging conditions. An example would be cryogenic applications in launch vehicle propulsion systems where propellants are stored at cryogenic temperature such as liquid oxygen (-320°F/-196°C) or liquid hydrogen (-425°F/-254°C). The unique seal design and spring compensate for the physical shrinkage that occurs in the fluoropolymer jacket at very low temperature, supplying exceptional sealing capabilities. In addition to handling very low temperature, the seal tolerates extreme pressures from vacuum to a few thousands bars as well as provides low friction and reduced weight.
Available in various fluoropolymer grades and meeting chemical compatibility requirements in the space industry (liquid oxygen and hypergolic fluids), the RACO® seal can be manufactured in a wide range of sizes that make it ideal for different applications, e.g., rocket tanks that can be a few meters large or much smaller valves, and feeding lines that transfer fuel to the rocket engine.
Over the past few years, there has been a surge in the commercialization of the space industry, leading to different requirements and procedures versus those of government agencies. These new changes result in demands for rapid design iterations, design engineering and lower flight costs. To manage these needs, Saint-Gobain Seals closely collaborates with its space customers and uses their FEA and R&D capabilities to support and co-develop new solutions for critical sealing parts.
Along with the OmniSeal® product line of spring-energized seals, the business has also provided polymer solutions in other space applications: Rulon® PTFE bearings for the Mars Rover Curiosity and Meldin® thermoset polyimide bushings for Delta IV’s slip joint system.