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Ball Bearings in Space Exploration

Outer Space. The final frontier. A vast and infinite unknown barely explored by mankind, that has captured the imaginations of people all around the world including some of the greatest minds of our times. From the likes of the ancient Mayan and Sumerian civilizations, to Galileo and Stephen Hawkins, we’ve been looking up at the night sky for centuries. Despite the idea of space being so popular, not many people are aware of what harsh environment space is and the extreme conditions any kind of vehicle has to be put through to make into orbit above our planet, and then back down again. Ball bearings are used to counter the friction in these machines like any other, but the performance of these bearings has to be above and beyond the call of duty.

Space shuttles, rockets, satellites all have a massive amount of internal and external components that shift and move to help them get into orbit and manoeuvre once they are in space. Most mechanical objects that move and create friction are normally lubricated, but because of the extreme heat associated with exiting and re-entering the atmosphere and the extreme cold that persists throughout the vacuum of space, regular lubricants can’t be used. The mechanical parts of shuttles and rockets must be capable of withstanding the rigour of space travel and be able to go without maintenance for extended periods of time. The ball bearings have to be of the highest quality to survive blazing heat, freezing cold, and pressures and vibrations beyond anything else the earth has to offer.

Manufacturers of such equipment require the highest level of quality and will not accept anything less. SKF are a world leading supplier of a wide range of aerospace solutions including bearings and work with the major players in the aerospace industry to support them in their programmes. SKF provided the high quality bearings required for the Arriane Space Rocket of the European Space Agency that launches satellites into space and they have more than 100 years experience in the aerospace industry.