A Review of Space Tribology Experiments in Low Earth Orbit: Challenges and Opportunities

Amaradasa, H D S, Sherrington, Ian orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-1283-9850, Renevier, Nathalie orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2471-7236, Bernabei, Mara orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-4331-6745 and Ghanbari, Ali orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-1087-8426 (2023) A Review of Space Tribology Experiments in Low Earth Orbit: Challenges and Opportunities. In: LUBMAT 2023, 17-19 July 2023, UCLan, Preston, UK.

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Official URL: https://www.uclan.ac.uk/research/activity/jost


Operating mechanical devices in low earth orbit (LEO) environment presents unique challenges due to adverse effects of the LEO environment on lubricants and materials in tribo-mechanisms. These challenges include corrosion due to atomic oxygen, molecular degradation of materials and fluids due to radiation, temperature extremes influencing lubricant viscosity, and rapid evaporative loss of fluids in vacuum conditions. Therefore, lubricants for mechanisms and components such as bearings and gears for spacecraft should be tested extensively in both air and vacuum to ensure their continuous and accurate function. Literature on ground based tribo-testing is extensive and well-established. However, tribological investigations conducted in LEO are much fewer in number. The purpose of this paper is to draw together details of tribology experiments of this type, to try to clarify their purpose and value. This review presents these studies according to a thematic categorization of the mechanisms involved.

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