Whether for satellites in orbit or along the ocean floor, the demand for connections to enable the transmission of data, signals or electrical power increases every year. In aeronautics, the on-board equipment and materials of an aircraft must be able to withstand extreme climatic and mechanical conditions, because at an altitude of 10,000 m, a small failure can have critical consequences. In this kind of application, failure is not an option.
The environment to which aircraft and aeronautical equipment are exposed is harsh and subject to extreme mechanical and climatic conditions. Depending on the location of the equipment in the aircraft, at an altitude of 10,000 m, the outside temperature can drop to -50°C, while the internal temperature of the engines can exceed 1,000°C and the temperature close to the engines can reach 200°C. Equipment therefore must be capable of operating correctly in these temperature ranges, which is a challenge for electrical components as well as materials such as plastics and polymers.
Souriau has been providing interconnection solutions for critical environmental applications for decades and has earned a reputation for high reliability in its field. Alongside the world leaders in space, aviation, defense, energy and industry in general, the company offers a wide range of solutions to meet all types of extreme environments, ensuring reliable and secure connections.
According to Fabrice Durand, Product Marketing Manager, “We are known for the quality and reliability of our connectors and the efficiency of our supply chain. But as well as our existing solutions, our teams are committed to working with our customers on a daily basis to design and develop the interconnection systems of tomorrow. Let’s take the example of fiber-optic solutions, for which Souriau has demonstrated its technological leadership for many years. Here, new areas of application are emerging. This gives us the opportunity to develop innovative solutions which simplify implementation or adapt our solutions to increasingly harsh environments. Also, to support this innovation and keep pace with the dynamism of the aeronautics market, Souriau has set up collaborative spaces in its sites. Employees can meet there to share and work on new ideas.”
Due to the severe conditions and the high stakes involved, aircraft manufacturers and OEMs must qualify their equipment according to strict standards. Souriau provides a range of connectors, fittings and contacts qualified according to industry standards such as MIL-DTL, EN, MS and HE. Some manufacturers apply their own internal standards for which Souriau is also qualified, in particular BACC (Boeing), ASNE (Airbus) and ESC (Rolls Royce).
For applications in harsh environments, circular connectors are generally preferred over rectangular connectors for their ease of handling and robustness. Inside the aircraft, mechanical and climatic constraints are less stringent. However, there are other constraints, as space (avionics), or pressure differences that require technically sophisticated solutions. In the interior and the exterior of the aircraft, reducing the total weight is a major objective for aircraft manufacturers because a lighter aircraft allows for more efficient fuel consumption. For this reason, Souriau offers thermoplastic connectors and fittings, 30% lighter and offering superior performance to aluminum.
The new production standards also favor solutions that can be integrated at a lower cost, directly linked to the development of satellite constellations. Christian Groeppelin, Head of Project Management Office, pointed out that, “to achieve high production objectives in the space sector, manufacturers have had to completely review their design and depart from their manufacturing norms. They use technologies which have high standards but at a lower cost, and are directly derived from those used in the aeronautics industry. Specific innovation projects are focused on making cabling easier, and developing tools that reduce connector installation costs. For several years now, Souriau has been turning to agile project management: for example, we have developed a fab lab equipped with a 3D printer, accessible to all our engineers, so that they become familiar with these new technologies. So now, we can develop a new idea and present it to our customers very quickly, in just a few days.”