Bearing faults in momentum/reaction wheels and control moment gyros are a significant life- and performance-limiting factor in spacecraft. Even when complete failure does not occur, problems with excessive bearing torque and torque noise can drain power and negatively impact vibration sensitive instruments. The failure mechanisms in these applications and the monitoring technologies needed are significantly different from most terrestrial and aircraft systems. This paper describes field experience and experimental data on bearing faults in satellite applications, and presents new monitoring technologies that allow optimal control of lubrication, thus extending life and preventing torque anomalies.

Author: Sean Marble, David Tow

Publish Date: Mar 15, 2013