CAMARILLO, Calif., 24 July 2012. Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) engineers adopted non-explosive actuators from Cooper Interconnect, a manufacturer of interconnect solutions, on the Dragon spacecraft, the first commercial vehicle in history to attach to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Dragon spacecraft comprises three main elements: a nose cone, a pressurized capsule, and an unpressurized cargo trunk. The non-explosive actuators were installed on the Dragon capsule to facilitate a broad range of mission-critical functionality including nose-cone deployment needed to expose the docking adapter, release of the trunk before re-entry into the atmosphere, opening of the main-parachute door before splashdown and for the contingency flight release of the grapple fixture that was not required in this mission.
Non-explosive actuators enable the containment and release of hardware during different phases of a space mission. Typical spacecraft applications include deployment of covers to expose docking collars, unfolding of antenna and solar-power arrays, and opening parachutes.
"Cooper Interconnect is proud to have attained a 100 percent success rate with our non-explosive actuators during the historic mission to dock the first commercial spacecraft to the International Space Station," explains Peter Milstead, Cooper Interconnect's director of marketing for military and aerospace products. "This challenging technical feat is especially impressive as it has previously only been accomplished with the government resources of the United States, Russia, Japan, and the European Space Agency."
Non-Explosive Actuator (NEA) solutions provided by Cooper Interconnect include: bypass switches, cable releases, pin pullers, separation nuts, tension releases, and flight-termination systems.