"Lubrication of Space Systems"

by Robert L. Fusaro
NASA Lewis Research Center


Lubrication of Space Systems

by Robert L. Fusaro
NASA Lewis Research Center

This tribology technical report is dedicated to the study of "lubricants of the future," as required for the advanced mechanical moving components of space stations, Earth-observing satellites, space telescopes, and planetary orbiters. 

The space age brings new lubrication challenges with it: exposure to extremely low ambient pressures, a radiation and atomic oxygen environment, the presence of meteoroids, the absence of a gravitational field, imposed weight limitations, contamination by vapors, and the use of mechanical components that are not maintainable.

Much of the attention in this book is toward the Space Station and future NASA missions--the Space Exploration Initiative (manned flights to the Moon, Mars, and beyond), and advanced astrophysics studies.  You'll find details about state-of-the-art lubricating liquids, greases, and solids:

  • Silicones, mineral oils, perfluoropolyalkylethers (PFPAE), polyalphaolefins, polyolesters, and multiply-alkylated cyclopentanes
  • Thickened lubricating soaps (with lithium, calcium, sodium, aluminum, PTFE, and lead)
  • Soft metal films (gold, silver, lead, indium, barium)
  • Lamellar solids (molybdenum disulfide, tungsten disulfide, cadmium iodide, lead iodide, molybdenum diselenide, intercalated graphite, fluorinated ethylene-propylene, ultra-high-molecular weight polyethylene, polyether ether ketone, polyacetal, and phenolic and epoxy resins
  • Fluorides of calcium, lithium, barium, and rare earths
  • Sulfides of bismuth and cadmium
  • Oxides of lead, cadmium, cobalt, and zinc
Liquid and solid lubricating mechanisms are discussed, along with the various other factors affecting lubrication in a space environment.  The author also considers the advantages and disadvantages of solid and liquid lubricants for these applications.

Much of this detailed report deal with "future space tribological challenges," for spacecraft, planetary surface vehicles, and lunar processing plants.  Space simulation and accelerated testing problems are covered.

Looking toward the future, you'll learn about dense thin films of solid lubricants, powder lubrication, novel noncontact lubrication solutions, magnetic bearings, hard coatings, and in situ sputtering of solid lubricants.

There's also various tables and charts of space lubricant properties, reaction efficiencies of tribomaterials, spectrum of speeds of space mechanisms; illustrations of ball bearing film-transfer mechanisms, lubricant mechanism for sliding surfaces, and surface profiles for various lubricant films.

The document also covers various lubricants for rolling-element bearings, journal bearings, gears, bushings, electrical sliding contacts, clamps and latches, bolts, seals, rotating nuts, robotic and telescoping joints, backup bearings for gas and magnetic bearings, fluid transfer joints, various release mechanisms, valves, and harmonic drives.

Following the treatise are five pages of (42) technical references suggesting further study.

Much of this technical data and information about lubrication was classified as secret until the time of this report.   This fine handbook will provide exceptional information for everyone who designs, builds, tests, or uses advanced mechanical devices that require special lubrication.

It's an official NASA design guide, full of esoteric scientific data.  In a word, it's a book by the experts, for the experts!  Literally millions of dollars were spent obtaining this critical yet hard-to-find data. 

This sampling of the superb illustrations are shown at greatly reduced resolution size:

Typical illustration (much smaller than in book)


Very hard to find and now out-of-print, this new limited edition has been republished by the Rocket Science Institute.  It's printed with a high-resolution laser printer (not photocopied) on high-quality, bright-white, 24-pound, acid-free paper, and quality bound for years of reference use.  28 pages, large and easy-to-read 11" x 8-1/2" size.


Priority Mail Postage US $3.85            Global Priority Mail (Canada / Mexico) US$7.00          Global Priority Mail International US$9.00.

For details about ordering your copy, click here.


Our books may be purchased direct by e-mail or postal order, or through our regular auctions on eBay and Rocketry Online.

We ship to anywhere in the world!  You pay only actual postal costs.

For details about how to order a book, click here.


The Rocket Science Institute is a non-profit scientific and educational foundation in support of "amateur" experimental rocket science, engineering, and technology.

Rocket Science Institute, Inc., P.O. Box 1253, Carmel Valley CA 93924 USA     •     e-mail: books@rocketsciencebooks.com 

Book Catalog
Nitrate-type Propellants Group