ESR Technology’s Space group secures strategic five-year Frame Contract

ESR Technology’s Space group (ESTL) has recently renewed a strategically important Frame Contract with the European Space Agency (ESA). Worth in excess of €3M over its five-year duration, this is a very important contract as it endorses ESTL as Europe’s centre of excellence in the field of space tribology. This branch of mechanical engineering considers friction, wear and lubrication to improve the efficiency and reliability of a spacecraft’s moving parts.

The award of the contract was the culmination of over a year’s preparation, working with ESA, the UK Space Agency and the European space mechanism community to ensure that the contract remained with ESTL. This included several presentations highlighting ESTL’s value to industry at key events.

The contract is unusual in that it funds both operational activities - aimed at maintaining and upgrading the ESTL cleanroom and its facilities, and technical activities - aimed at generating tribological data of relevance to current and future ESA programmes. These technical tasks reflect the ongoing requirements for validated tribological data and user guidelines to support the successful design and development of European spacecraft mechanisms.

Work on the Frame Contract is authorised by annual Call-Off Orders. The first of these, worth €660,000 has already started. Examples of work packages that will be undertaken this year include:

  • Optimising and qualifying the molybdenum disulphide lubricant coatings that are produced by our new sputter coating facility.
  • Characterising hybrid ceramic bearings (steel races and ceramic balls) for high speed applications.
  • Upgrading our Spiral orbit tribometer by modifying the rig to allow a higher speed of operation and tests at elevated temperature.

Simon Griffin, ESTL’s Associate Business Director commented: ‘The ESA Frame Contract underpins the ESTL operation. It’s renewal for another five years is great news and coincides perfectly with our joining the Hyder Consulting Group’.

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