Springco’s space heritage

by | 11 Sep 2023 | Blog Posts

With the recent success of India’s Chandrayaan-3 lunar landing as well as Japan launching their own mission to the Moon, it is clear we are in the midst of a global space race the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 1960s. Long duration missions such as the aforementioned lunar lander take several years  and eyewatering amounts of money to develop and so when a contractor turns to their suppliers, they need absolute certainty that the product they are providing will not fail in even the most extreme environments. It is in these high stakes situations that they turn to suppliers they trust, suppliers with heritage. With that being said, lets have a look at the history of space project Springco has supplied springs to.



The Pegasus XL rocket on its carrier aircraft – Via NASA
Operational from 1990-2021, Pegasus was the world’s first privately developed launch vehicle. A product of Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) and later Northrop Grumman, it flew 45 times with Springco servicing several satellites throughout the duration. Pegasus was ‘air-launched’ which means it flew on a conventional carrier aircraft for a portion of the mission before being deployed and reaching orbit under its own propulsion. Pegasus had a payload capacity comparable to the Electron rocket launched by Rocket Lab today, placing it firmly in the small launch category.



JPL Curiosity rover ‘selfie’ on Mars – Via NASA/JPL
The Curiosity Mars rover created by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California has been one of the most successful missions in the agency’s history. Launched in 2011, Curiosity’s 2 year mission was extended indefinitely and is still operational on the Martian surface today. It was so well engineered it served as the foundation for the Perseverance rover launched 10 years later. Springco’s compression springs feature in the rovers High Gain Antenna Systems (HGAS) and continue to function perfectly despite undergoing temperatures anywhere from  -135°C to +90°C.



Gaia space observatory (foreground) with Milky Way Galaxy (background) – Via ESA
A project of the European Space Agency (ESA), Gaia is a space observatory which has been creating the most precise 3D map of our galaxy, the Milky Way, since its launch in 2013. In that time it has catalogued over 1 billion astronomical objects, mostly stars. The mission, featuring Springco components, is expected to be operational until 2025 at the earliest.

As with many long duration missions of this type, the springs on board are stowed for up to a year between being tested and being launched. After surviving the high G-forces of launch, the springs must then deploy without issue and continue to function in the harshness of space until after the mission ends, usually due to loss of power or propulsion.



BepiColombo mission with Mercury Magnetosphere Orbiter (left) – Via ESA
This planetary science mission to Mercury was launched in 2018 and is expected to reach the smallest planet in our solar system around 2025. Based on a collaboration between ESA and the Japanese space agency (JAXA), BepiColombo will study many aspects of Mercury. The part of the mission featuring Springco springs however is the Mercury Magnetosphere Orbiter (MMO) which will study the planet’s magnetic field. On its 7 year journey, BepiColombo will complete 9 planetary ‘fly-bys’, a manoeuvre invented by the Italian scientist Guiseppe Colombo whom the mission is named after.


Solar Orbiter

Solar orbiter approaching the sun – Via ESA
The NASA/ESA solar orbiter is the most complex laboratory ever sent to the sun. Costing $1.5 billion and operational from 2020 to 2026 (with option to extend), it will take the closest images of the sun yet. The mission has the objective of unravelling the mysteries of the solar cycle to better understand the sun that permits life on Earth. The instrument boom arm features components created by Springco and must function under some of the most extreme temperature variations in space.



Juice Mission to Jupiter 2023
Juice mission being transported to launch pad – Via ESA/CNES/ArianeSpace
The most recent project Springco supplied is the Jupiter Icy Moons explorer (Juice) launched in April 2023 from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana. It is currently on an 8 year journey to study the Jovian moons of Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa for liquid water beneath their icy surfaces and explore their feasibility as possible future habitats. The scientific portion of the mission is expected to last for 3.5 years after it arrives in 2031. Juice is a project of the European Space Agency