By BeST | Published: November 18, 2014
Beryllium helps the European Space Agency (ESA) Rosetta mission soft-land its Philae probe on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12th , 2014 – the first time in history that such an extraordinary feat has been achieved.
Beryllium was used in multiple applications fitted in multiple locations of both the Rosetta satellite and the Philae Probe vehicle. Prominent examples include the following:
Connector terminals: For the entire 10-year length of its epic journey to rendezvous with the comet, Rosetta and Philae depended upon the reliability of copper beryllium connector terminals of its electrical and electronic connectors. The reliability has been proven in every satellite and space probe launched by the EU and USA.
Radio transmission antennae: The mission used a novel tubular boom antenna design, developed in Poland by Marta Tokarz, Jerzy Grygorczuk, Stanisław Jarzynka and Henryk Gut of the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences (CBK PAN)
Philae Lander: Harpoon Penetrator and Components
CBK PAN developed a miniature 6-mm diameter tubular boom antenna, made of copper beryllium 2% alloy strip, which was more compact and lighter than the stainless steel versions used before (it weighs 8g per 1m, while the previous booms weigh 50g – 100g per 1m respectively). This remarkable weight saving was made possible by the unique combination of strength, rigidity and stress relaxation resistance at launch and space temperatures provided by beryllium alloys.
A typical set of 3 Orthogonal Satellite Antennae:
Note the coiled copper beryllium strip, which has been pre-formed into an arced profile (like a flexible tape measure) that will subsequently form the circular profile antennae. Also, note the circular connectors which are fitted with copper beryllium terminals to provide high reliability connections even when subjected to the forces and vibration of launch, coupled with the extreme cold of space.
Schematic illustration of antenna deployment mechanism:
Philae Lander – Penetrator and anchor system “Harpoon”: