Reaching for the sun

Nothing is more important to life on earth than the sun. Without it, our planet would merely be an icy, lifeless rock tumbling through space. Still, the sun has remained mainly unexplored – until now, that is. The European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA are set to launch the Solar Orbiter, a spacecraft whose mission is to collect detailed information about the sun’s effects on our solar system. It will make history as being the closest man-made object to the sun ever, even closer to the hot star than Mercury.

OHB Sweden AB provides the Solar Orbiter with systems that allow it to position itself in orbit around the sun and make a complex series of gravitational-assist fly-bys past both Earth and Venus. One of them is a chemical propulsion system with 18 rocket engines and two tanks fuelled with a total of 200 kg of propellant. During the launch from Cape Canaveral, the propulsion system and the bolts securing it must cope with dynamic loads of up to 30 times the force of gravity. Since bolt loosening can’t be fixed in space, OHB takes no chances. All bolts are fitted with a total of 240 NL4 washers. The space system provider has been a Nord-Lock customer for decades and knows that any space voyage starts with a secure bolting solution.

Customer: OHB Sweden AB
Launch date: July 2017
Budget: $1.1 BN
Closest point to the sun: 42 million kilometres
Mission lifetime: 7 years
Max speed: 70 km/s
Temperatures in space: –100 to + 520 degrees Celsius

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