Smooth ride at 300 km/h

Jan 31, 2013
Caterham F1 Team’s space-damped racing car.

Serious shocks need serious shock absorption, in space as well as on the ground. Now high-performance racing cars are driving more smoothly on space-ready rubber from ESA spacecraft.

Toulon-based French company SMAC specialises in finely tuned rubber formulations that cushion sensitive machinery everywhere, from to the racetrack.

"They're very high-damping materials," says CEO Philippe Robert. "They have been used in everything from to aeronautics and even auto racing."

In space, special SMAC materials are used to reduce pyrotechnic shocks – basically, the explosions that jolt a satellite when it's launched atop a rocket or when explosive couplings release.

"When you have pyro-bolts or any pyrotechnic device, they create a lot of energy in a very short time," Philippe says. "Engineers are concerned you could break sensitive items with a high-frequency shock."

Another way the special materials are used in orbit is to eliminate the tiny vibrations caused by a satellite's moving parts. Such vibrations might throw off the measurements of a sensitive device or result in blurry images of the cosmos.

Smooth ride at 300 km/h
Smactane damper.

"If you have very high-accuracy cameras, you don't want them disturbed by the vibrations from electric motors," Philippe says.

ESA has worked with SMAC to develop damping technology for the Agency's Expert reentry test craft and the of the Automated Transfer Vehicle responsible for resupplying the .

"Expert used the anti-vibration mounts or dampers on three different sets of equipment: the inertial measurement unit, the power control and distribution unit, and the beacon," notes Anthony Thirkettle, Expert Principal in ESA.

"They reduce the coming from the launcher to levels that the equipment was designed and qualified for."

ATV-3 approaches Space Station.

Space expertise improves car performance

Based on the knowhow from developing Smactane certified by ESA for use in space, the company has produced other rubber materials for non-space applications.

Smacbumb is being used to rocket Formula 1 cars along the world's racetracks. The exact composition of both types, Philippe says, is proprietary.

The 650 kg high-performance machines sometimes drive 800 km in a race weekend, exceeding 300 km/h. The high stresses and speeds also make them ideal testbeds for any high technology, including the materials developed by SMAC.

"With our rubber parts, they get better performance and better tuning," Philippe says. "It's costly, but it appears it is a very important part in terms of the handling of the car."

Explore further: Tricorder XPRIZE: 10 teams advance in global competition to develop consumer-focused diagnostic device

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The shock of separation

Aug 28, 2012

The BepiColombo mission to Mercury has undergone a series of shock tests at ESA's test facilities to replicate conditions it will experience during its intense ride into space. This video shows tests to mimic the moment it ...

Jules Verne ATV launch approaching

Feb 11, 2008

After the successful launch of ESA’s Columbus laboratory aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis on Thursday (7 February), it is now time to focus on the next imminent milestone for ESA: the launch of Jules Verne, ...

ESA workhorse to power NASA's Orion spacecraft

Jan 17, 2013

(Phys.org)—The ATV-derived service module, sitting directly below Orion's crew capsule, will provide propulsion, power, thermal control, as well as supplying water and gas to the astronauts in the habitable ...

Galileo satellite undergoes launch check-up at ESTEC

Jan 20, 2011

Galileo's first satellite is undergoing testing at ESA's technical centre in the Netherlands, checking its readiness to be launched into orbit. This marks a significant step for Europe's Galileo satnav constellation.

Feb 13 set as new date for Europe's Vega rocket

Feb 03, 2012

The European Space Agency (ESA) said on Friday that the first launch of a long-awaited light rocket, Vega, which had been pencilled for February 9, would take place on February 13.

The benefits of space technology for dentists

Oct 13, 2010

Dentists and their patients will soon benefit from a tiny new high-resolution X-ray camera. A Swedish company has adapted an advanced technique used for miniaturising space hardware to make a visit to the ...

Recommended for you

Augmented reality helps in industrial troubleshooting

Aug 28, 2014

At a "smart" factory, machines reveal a number of data about themselves. Sensors measuring temperature, rotating speed or vibrations provide valuable information on the state of a machine. On this basis, ...

User comments : 0