Grease-Resistant O Rings for Joints in Solid Rocket Motors

  • Magazine Article
  • TBMG-29365
Published February 01, 2003 by Tech Briefs Media Group in United States
  • English

There is a continuing effort to develop improved O rings for sealing joints in solid-fuel rocket motors. Following an approach based on the lessons learned in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, investigators have been seeking O-ring materials that exhibit adequate resilience for effective sealing over a broad temperature range: What are desired are O rings that expand far and fast enough to maintain seals, even when metal sealing surfaces at a joint move slightly away from each other shortly after ignition and the motor was exposed to cold weather before ignition. Other qualities desired of the improved O rings include adequate resistance to ablation by hot rocket gases and resistance to swelling when exposed to hydrocarbon-based greases used to protect some motor components against corrosion. Five rubber formulations - two based on a fluorosilicone polymer and three based on copolymers of epichlorohydrin with ethylene oxide - were tested as candidate O-ring materials. Of these, one of the epichlorohydrin/ethylene oxide formulations was found to offer the closest to the desired combination of properties and was selected for further evaluation.