The successful operation of long-life, highly loaded mechanisms used for planetary exploration or autonomous structures assembly will depend upon the ability to effectively lubricate rolling-element bearings. As new tools are developed (i.e., drill, abraders, robotic manipulators, etc.) that interact with their environment in a more direct manner, lubricants will be pushed past the bounds that current scientific literature has published. This paper details results from bearing lubrication lifetime testing performed in support of Honeybee Robotics development of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Surface Removal Tool (SRT). This testing was done due to the lack of available data in research literature that is applicable to the lubrication regime the SRT bearings are being designed for. Based on the test results, the chosen bearing arrangement can be used for the SRT Grind Shaft bearings with the use of a Braycote Micronic 601EF grease-plate with a 10 vol% grease slurry fill (50/50 wt% Braycote Micronic 601EF and Brayco 815Z). This arrangement showed no signs of detrimental degradation over the course of the 3x life test. The purely grease-plated bearing ran at a consistently higher torque and showed signs of failure beginning at approximately 2.2 x 10(exp 7) revs (approximately 6.3 x 10(exp 7) stress-cycles) with a torque over-limit failure at approximately 4.5 x 10(exp 7) revs (approximately 1.3 x 10(exp 8) stress-cycles). Barring cold-start torque margin limitations, it is recommended that any long-life bearing application include some vol% grease-pack in addition to a standard grease-plate to reduce parasitic torque and increase bearing life. While these results are specific to a particular environment and loading condition, they demonstrate the extended capabilities of a commonly used flight lubricant outside of the range that is published in current research literature.
39th Aerospace Mechanisms Symposium; 69-82; NASA/CP-2008-215252