A tool has been developed for the special purpose of inserting the terminus of an optical fiber in a cable connector that conforms to NASA Specification SSQ-21635. What prompted the development of the tool was the observation that because of some aspects of the designs of fiber-optic termini and of springs, sealing rings, and a grommet inside the shell of such a connector, there is a tendency for the grommet to become damaged and detached from the sealing rings during installation. It is necessary to ensure the integrity of the grommet for proper sealing and proper functioning of the connector. The special-purpose tool provides the needed protection for the grommet.

The grommet-protection tool resembles a funnel into which an axial slit has been cut (see figure). Prior to insertion, the grommet-protection tool is rolled so that one side of the slit overlaps the other side. The rolled-up grommet-protection tool is inserted in one of the connector holes that accommodate the fiber-optic termini and is pushed in until the flange (the wider of the two conical portions) of the tool becomes seated on the connector grommet. Then a special-purpose installation tool is inserted in the flange of the grommet-protection tool and pressed in until it becomes seated in the flange. This operation expands the narrower of the two conical portions of the grommet-protection tool. The installation tool is removed and the grommet-protection tool remains expanded due to the flat surfaces on the axial slit.

By use of a standard contact-insertion tool, a fiber-optic terminus is inserted, through the grommet-protection tool, into the connector cavity. By use of a pair of forceps or needle-nose pliers, the grommet-protection tool is then pulled out of the cavity. Finally, the grommet-protection tool is removed from around the installed fiber-optic cable by pulling the cable through the axial slit.

Unlike in some prior procedures for installing the fiber-optic termini in the connector, the procedure that involves the use of the present grommet-protection tool does not include the use of lubricants that can contaminate the interior of the connector. The grommet-protection tool is made of a fluoropolymer, taking advantage of the flexibility of such polymers and further taking advantage of the inherent slipperiness of fluoropolymers. Although the tool is designed primarily for insertion of a fiber-optic terminus, it might also be useful for extracting a previously installed fiber-optic terminus.

This work was done by Wes King, Donald J. Domonoske, John Krier, and John White of Boeing North American, Inc. for Johnson Space Center. For further information, contact Reatha H. Corbett, Patent Analyst The Boeing Company PO Box 2515 2201 Seal Beach Blvd. Seal Beach, CA 90740-1515 Phone: (562) 797-2020, E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Refer to MSC-22951.