Exploring the universe with Bossard’s expertise 20 December 2023

Here we speak to Jürgen Eixler, head of engineering at Bossard AG, as part of the Bossard Group, about how the company has collaborated with Beyond Gravity to deliver exploration payload projects for the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Ariane missions.

What are the products Bossard has supplied as part of your collaboration with Beyond Gravity and how have they been used? 

“We have delivered more than one million parts to Beyond Gravity and we also help project development with our logistics systems and engineering services. Bossard does not only deliver standard parts, such as screws, nuts, and different materials, we also supply a lot of bespoke articles, which are specially produced for Beyond Gravity. This is mostly done in collaboration with Beyond Gravity, who sends us a design of a certain part and we aim to optimise this part with the manufacturer. In the end, our customer gets the part they are looking for, thanks to our high-quality requirements.

Every product is important in the Beyond Gravity projects, as each item must be able to fulfil specific requirements in order to play its part in each mission being a success. One such product are special pins – ball lock pins – which are used in all the payload fairings for the Ariane flights. These pins are specially designed to allow the protective capsule to break away from the satellite once the rocket has reached the outer atmosphere. This process is very important, as it ensures the satellite remains undamaged during the launch process, but then allows the protective shell to break open and the satellite to begin its mission.” 

What were the challenges when designing fasteners for Beyond Gravity? How can Bossard help the company face these challenges?

“When going to space, one of the main goals is to reduce weight, as each payload costs a lot of energy. You always have to try and reduce the weight of the payload to its minimum. To do this, we start with the sources of the raw material, ensuring that all the materials we use are of very high-quality. We also always check certifications of the manufacturer, as there is only a small group of manufacturers that we source from when developing parts for aerospace applications.

For Beyond Gravity specifically, we offer a lot of friction tests. We do this because for the Ariane projects we work with titanium, which compared to other materials, such as steel, is a very lightweight metal and therefore ideal for numerous applications. For the titanium we use special coatings to protect from corrosion and galling. However, there is limited knowledge on how this coating and material performs, as unlike a normal zinc plated screw, for example, which are used in many industries such as rail, titanium isn’t a widely used metal, so the tests we perform are extremely important. 

When we tighten the screw with the washer and the nut we have to know which contact points generate the most friction. We perform the friction tests so that during application, we know the correct torque to use in order to achieve the correct preload. 

This is a very important process, as friction influences around 80% of the process when applying the torque and achieving preload. Through these extensive friction tests, we help Beyond Gravity go to space, as safe and as light as possible.

We also have an engineering department that helps our customers throughout the design process, to optimise the product and ensure it will perform in its given application. We also offer test services, which ensure that parts perform under certain stresses. Plus, we can offer educational services, which helps teach how to correctly assemble components, such as the right torque to use. The final aspect is we oversee the entire manufacturing process, so we go to the manufacturing facility to see how they assemble the parts, what tools they use, and from here we can help optimise those processes.”

What are the benefits to the end user when working with Bossard? 

“Bossard is a ‘one stop shop’. If you imagine yourself going to a supermarket and you need different kinds of products, you go there and buy everything in one place. This is the unique selling point of Bossard, that the customers can come to us and say ‘I need this type of screw or nut’ and Bossard finds the right solution for the customer – saving them time and resources. Another benefit is that the end user has the opportunity to use our engineering services, which is a big advantage – as most of our competitors do not have this type of engineering department. We are also very strong in our logistics systems. It is through these services that we can help our customers find the right solution and find the best high-quality products. We bring our products to the customer, at the right time and in the right place, so there is never an issue with missing products or delays.”

What opportunities for Bossard do you see in the future?

“We see huge potential in the aerospace sector and Bossard is definitely already a key player in this market. In the future we want to expand on that and look ahead to exciting times and a growing market.

Bossard has also recently been tasked with delivering fasteners for the payload fairings of the Ariane 6, the ESA’s next generation of launch rockets. The company intends to continue playing a key role in supplying fasteners not only to Beyond Gravity, but to the aerospace industry as a whole.”  

Becca England Assistant Editor t: +44 (0) 1727 615 413

Becca is the latest member to join our team and is eager to get stuck into the world of fasteners. She brings an enthusiastic and fresh outlook on what we do editorially and will be leading our social media activity – including sourcing material, editing articles and posting online.