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Significant contract win with Boeing

Smiths Interconnect was recently awarded a contract by Boeing to design, manufacture and supply bespoke connectors for use aboard NASA’s Orion spacecraft and Lunar Gateway.

Smiths Interconnect’s docking umbilical connectors will be used to transfer power, signal and communications to different modules on the space station.

“These connectors have to meet strict specifications to endure the challenges of space. They must deliver high speed signal integrity to ensure there is a strong, consistent connection throughout the mission,” said Paul Harris, VP Sales and Marketing at Smiths Interconnect. “With many phases of the Artemis programme still to come, we hope that our partnership with Boeing will stretch many decades as we explore Mars and the wonders that the planet has to offer.”

The Orion spacecraft will take up to four astronauts to the Lunar Gateway where they will board a human landing system for exploration missions to the surface of the Moon.

The Lunar Gateway is an in-development spaceship which is intended to orbit around the Moon. It will be a solar-powered communication hub, with living quarters for astronauts, a lab for science and research, ports for visiting spacecraft, and holding area for rovers and other robots.

The spaceship will be a temporary home and office for astronauts, just about a five-day, 250,000-mile commute from Earth. It will provide NASA and its partners access to more of the lunar surface than ever before, supporting both human and robotic missions on the Moon, and eventually to Mars.

Of five companies who responded to NASA’s call for submissions, Smiths Interconnect quickly pulled ahead of the rest thanks to its ruggedised D-sub miniature connectors, designed to withstand the high vibration and extreme temperature fluctuations faced in space. The connectors make it possible for Orion’s data system to transmit more data than the network used in the Space Shuttle era while also eliminating extraneous signal noise. Orion will also be using Smiths Interconnect’s ultra-reliable KA family of connectors in its power systems, featuring Hypertac™ Hyperboloid technology. Its ingenious shape (a basket of wires) means the socket points completely surround the length of the mating pin. This provides far greater contact surface than in traditional connector design, meaning there is less likelihood of contact failure even when the component is subject to extreme mechanical shock and vibration. The design also gives the connector a self-cleaning wiping action. Along with oxide-free plating, this reduces the chance of connector degradation, helping to prolong its life. Such is the breakthrough of the Smiths design that its KA connectors can survive many times longer than comparable connectors without Hypertac technology.

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