Plastic-molded components produced by Diversified Plastics are currently speeding through space towards Jupiter aboard NASA’s Juno Space Probe. The craft was launched August 5, 2011, and is expected to begin orbiting the planet in early July 2016.
The plastic components are part of the JADE (Jovian Auroral Distributions Experiment) device. The JADE sensors are designed to measure and identify electron and ion particles along Jupiter’s magnetic fields that create the planet’s jovian auroral displays. JADE was developed for the Juno mission by the Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI) in San Antonio, TX. JADE is one of 29 instruments aboard the Juno spacecraft.
Customer specifications included using polyether ether ketone (PEEK). PEEK is used for very demanding applications and in harsh environments. This high-performance material provides very good dimensional stability, high strength, low weight, excellent resistance to high-energy radiation, and can withstand the extreme variations in temperature found in space travel. PEEK is an expensive material and is difficult to mold, requiring to be heated to very high temperatures during the molding process.
Diversified Plastics produced two short-run orders for SwRI — one for testing and one for final production components. Three different components were made, with two of them using metal inserts. One part required molding PEEK around an aluminum ring, and the second part needed multiple aluminum inserts machined first, then press-fit into the molded plastic.