Ceramic Industry News

MTC Named Supplier for European Spacecraft Mission to Mercury

Morgan Technical Ceramics (MTC) has been named the ceramic/metal assembly supplier for Europe’s first spacecraft mission to Mercury. The spacecraft, BepiColombo, which is expected to launch in 2014, will utilize MTC’s material in its solar-electric propulsion system.

The propulsion system, which is being manufactured by QinetiQ for the European Space Agency’s mission, uses brazed ceramic/metal assemblies to isolate components in the thrusters from extreme high voltage. Brazing provides a much stronger and simpler solution compared to alternative methods of joining ceramic and metal, resulting in a more reliable and robust system.

Mercury's distance to the sun presents many technical challenges. It will take six years for BepiColombo to reach the planet. The temperature on Mercury can reach 470°C, and solar radiation is 10 times stronger than on Earth. Also, a large amount of energy is required to brake the spacecraft against the sun's gravitational pull.

An advanced propulsion system is an essential part of meeting this technical challenge. QinetiQ has designed a solar-electric propulsion system comprised of four T6 ion thrusters, each of which consists of 17 brazed isolator assemblies. The thrusters work at an extremely high voltage of up to 1.85 kV and are around 10 times more efficient than chemical thrusters, which have traditionally been used as propulsion systems on spacecraft. The brazed components are used to electrically isolate the propellant systems and spacecraft from the high voltage that the thruster operates. The isolators are brazed into the feed pipeline using special Kovar expansion match fittings that produce a gas-tight seal.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with QinetiQ on their largest space-related contract to date,” said Yannick Galais, commercial manager for Morgan Technical Ceramics. “There are many components and sub-assemblies within the thruster that operate at different voltages and need to be isolated from each other. Fitting the assemblies with isolators that have been brazed to a threaded termination or flange results in a stronger, rigid and more simplified joint.”

Brazed isolator assemblies are less complicated than alternative methods, especially where parts need to be bolted together. Alternative assembly methods would require multiple isolators to isolate the bolt as well as the assemblies.

“We chose brazed isolator assemblies from Morgan Technical Ceramics for their robustness and ability to withstand the harsh environments,” says Mike Kelly, electric propulsion engineer at QinetiQ. “We are confident in its brazing and manufacturing techniques, having worked with MTC previously.”

For additional information, visit www.morgantechnicalceramics.com. QinetiQ’s website is located at www.qinetiq.com.


Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Ceramic Industry Magazine.

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

2015 Ceramics Expo

Snapshots from the 2015 Ceramics Expo, April 28-30, Cleveland, Ohio. Posted: May 14, 2015.


Ceramics Expo podcast
Editor Susan Sutton discusses the upcoming Ceramics Expo with event director Adam Moore.
More Podcasts

Ceramic Industry Magazine

June 2015 ceramic industry

2015 June

This issue features our first annual Supplier of the Year Awards. Be sure to check it out!
Table Of Contents Subscribe

Daily News

We know where you find the latest ceramic industry news (ahem), but where do you catch up on the rest of your daily news?
View Results Poll Archive


M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\Ceramics Industry\handbook of advanced ceramics.gif
Handbook of Advanced Ceramics Machining

Ceramics, with their unique properties and diverse applications, hold the potential to revolutionize many industries, including automotive and semiconductors.

More Products

Clear Seas Research

Clear Seas ResearchWith access to over one million professionals and more than 60 industry-specific publications,Clear Seas Research offers relevant insights from those who know your industry best. Let us customize a market research solution that exceeds your marketing goals.


facebook_40px twitter_40px  youtube_40pxlinkedin_40google+ icon 40px


CI Data Book July 2012

Ceramic Industry's Directories including Components, Equipment Digest, Services, Data Book & Buyers Guide, Materials Handbook and much more!