Positronic Aims High with Space Grade Connectors

By Contributed Article | July 02, 2012

Positronic Aims High with Space Grade Connectors

The requirements of a space-grade connector used in space flight applications are high performance, non-outgassing, and low-magnetic characteristics. Positronic offers a broad range of termination styles, contact variants, and accessories, and provides our readers with an extensive overview of this type of connector.

Cable Assembly Supplier: How long has Positronic supplied space-grade connectors? In what programs have your connectors been used? What are some of the applications within these programs?

Gino Nanninga for Positronic: Positronic developed its space-grade D-subminiature series in 1991. High-performance D-subminiature connectors are offered in standard density, high density, combo-D, and dual-port packages. These high reliability connectors meet the applicable material, dimensional, and performance requirements of GSFC S-311-P-4, GSFC S-311-P-10, and MIL-DTL-24308 Class M.

The high performance D-subminiature line has enjoyed success with government agencies and programs as well as commercial space flight applications. Positronic’s space-grade D-subs can be found in communication, guidance, system control, power module, and optics applications for programs such as Taurus II, the Dragon space capsule, LCROSS, STSS, DWSS, GPS, JUNO, ORION, and CloudSat. Positronic values its relationships with distinguished space technology customers such as ITT Excelis, Orbital Science Group, SpaceX, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, ATK, and others.

Cable Assembly Supplier: What types of connectors does Positronic offer that would be qualified for space use?

Positronic: We offer D-subminiature connectors available in standard density, high density, combo-D, and dual port connectors that conform to the performance requirements of GSFC S-311-P-4, GSFC S-311-P-10, and MIL-DTL-24308 Class M. We also offer a full list of qualified part numbers, including lightweight aluminum hoods. Positronic’s PosiBand contacts have gained acceptance by the space industry and were assigned unique part numbers by the Goddard Space Flight Center. PosiBand contacts are the preferred closed-entry contacts for engineers in the spaceflight industry. Positronic is the exclusive qualified manufacturer of the G10S2 size 20 and G08S2 size 22 contacts.

Cable Assembly Supplier: How do you ensure your parts meet out-gassing per ASTM E-595 and NASA RP-1124? For instance, are your parts baked out, or is the insulator material you use one that already meets out-gassing specifications? Do you have to use a special ink to mark the parts to maintain the required out-gassing specifications? How do you ensure accessories meet these requirements?

Positronic: The insulator material we use for one-piece moldings meets the outgassing requirements of ASTM-E-595 without baking. Glued moldings are baked at 350°F (177°C) for 55 minutes to cure the adhesive. Polyester moldings used for space application product are marked with Markem 7224 ink to indicate that the outgassing process has been performed; they are then baked at 350°F (177°C) for 20 minutes to cure the ink. Alignment bars and other non-metallic components are processed the same way (350°, bake 20 minutes) when applicable. We send out samples once a year, minimum, of each material to ensure that our process is effective.

Cable Assembly Supplier: Are the connectors intended for space use built primarily to customer order or do you also stock small quantities for quick turnaround?

Positronic: The majority of the orders are built to order, but we do have a small quantity of Goddard parts on hand.

Cable Assembly Supplier: Do you screen your contacts for specific levels of residual magnetism? Are there any other parts of the connector, such as hardware, that are screened?

Positronic: Goddard contacts (G08P1, G08S1, G08S2, G10P1, G10S1, G10S2) are 100% tested for residual magnetism per Group A inspection of the Goddard specification, which limits the residual magnetism for loose contacts to 1/10 times the number of contacts in the sample and a maximum sample size of 500 pieces. Space quality contacts ordered to catalog part numbers are not subjected to this test unless specifically required by a customer drawing or purchase order note, but are constructed using the same materials and processes as those used in the Goddard parts.

For connectors, again, the Goddard part numbers are 100% tested per Group A inspection of the Goddard specification. Depending on the part number, there are three levels of residual magnetism for connectors: 20, 200, and 2000 Gamma, and we would test according to the requirement. Space quality connectors ordered to catalog part numbers are not subjected to this test unless specifically required by a customer drawing or purchase order note, but are constructed using the same materials and processes as those used in Goddard parts.

Cable Assembly Supplier: Is gold or stainless steel is more popular in space applications?

Positronic: Gold

Cable Assembly Supplier: Do Positronic connectors meet the space requirements of other regions?

Positronic: Positronic is currently working with European Space Agency toward qualification to ESA products.

Cable Assembly Supplier: Why do you use two different types of insulator material? Is this based on whether the connectors are standard density or high density?

Positronic: Standard density products use DAP insulator material. High-density connectors use polyester insulator material. Standard density connectors were originally tooled with DAP in the 1970s. In the 1980s, polyester was the material of choice.

Cable Assembly Supplier: What other parameters, besides low component weight, ability to meet out-gassing, and EMI requirements, do customers look at when deciding which space-grade connector to use?

Positronic: Very high reliability over time and low magnetic properties.

Cable Assembly Supplier: What are some of the challenges Positronic is currently facing when supplying connectors for space applications? Even though these products are used in applications that have literally NO room for failure, is price still a major factor in product selection? Does lead time play a significant role?

Positronic: As space flight moves from being a centralized activity managed by a national government agency to a commercial endeavor, competitive factors such as price and lead-time come more into play. New, up-and-coming companies in the space flight field demand maximum quality and flexibility at pricing that won’t break a tightly controlled budget. Positronic strives to bring our long tradition of space flight connector technology to the new players in the game.

Positronic Industries Inc.

423 N. Campbell Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65806 U.S.P: 800.641.4054
F: 417.866.4115
E: [email protected]
Europe HeadquartersPositronic Industries, S.A.S.
Zone Industrielle d’Engachies
46 Route d’Engachies
Auch Cedex 9 32020 France

P: 33 (0) 5 62 63 44 91
F: 33 (0) 5 62 63 51 17
E: [email protected]

Asia HeadquartersPositronic Asia PTE LTD.
3014A Ubi Road 1 #07-01
Singapore  408703

P: +65 6842 1419
F: +65 6842 1421
E: [email protected]

Gino Nanninga is the vice president of sales and marketing for Positronic Industries.


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