Failure Analysis and Recovery of a 50-mm Highly Elastic Intermetallic NiTi Ball Bearing for an ISS Application

2016-09-21_21h33_08Read the full text of an article reported on NASA Technical Reports Server

Ball bearings used inside the ISS Distillation Assembly centrifuge require superior corrosion and shock resistance to withstand acidic wastewater exposure and heavy spacecraft launch related loads. These requirements challenge conventional steel bearings and provide an ideal pathfinder application for 50-mm bore, deep-groove ball bearings made from the corrosion immune and highly elastic intermetallic material 60NiTi. During early ground testing in 2014 one 60NiTi bearing unexpectedly and catastrophically failed after operating for only 200 hr. A second bearing running on the same shaft was completely unaffected. An investigation into the root cause of the failure determined that an excessively tight press fit of the bearing outer race coupled with NiTi’s relatively low elastic modulus were key contributing factors. The proposed failure mode was successfully replicated by experiment. To further corroborate the root cause theory, a successful bearing life test using improved installation practices (selective fitting) was conducted. The results show that NiTi bearings are suitable for space applications provided that care is taken to accommodate their unique material characteristics.

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