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Personal Space
Silvie Belland
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St-Bruno, Quebec

Personal Life:
Married, two children

Favorite Movie:
Quebec Production, "Les Filles de Caleb"

Last Book Read:
"Theodore Roosevelt: A Life," by Nathan Miller

Favorite Music CD:
Notre Dame de Paris

Childhood Dream:
Research Scientist or Missionary in developing countries

Jogging, Tennis, Swimming, Biking and Skiing

Reading, Gardening

Sylvie Beland
[ 1 ] [ 2 ]

Big Silver Bird
Like a giant "Lego" set in space, the Station has many nicknames. For those on the outside, it's easy to just see it as a large orbiting research center. But for the teams hard at work helping to assemble it, it's more about the nuts and bolts. For Sylvie Beland, Flight and Launch Systems Manager for the Canada Space Agency (CSA), it's literally about the bolts.

Material (Science) Girl
A mechanical engineer, Beland's job is to make sure all Canadian hardware, including the famous "Canada Arm" designed for space station, and flight support equipment arrives at the station safely and in one piece. Once aboard, all components must be able to handle thermal changes and be successfully installed, integrated and utilized by the astronauts. "What astonished me was how much testing, integration, and verification is necessary for whatever you design," said Beland.

These Bolts Were Made for Working
Canada's high-tech robotic arm is something you just want to see in action.
To fit it in the space shuttle, the 55-foot-long arm is folded in four and placed on a space lab pallet that fits in the cargo bay. It's attached with eight 40" bolts so it stays in place during launch. "But because the tension load in this bolt is very high, it has to be distributed to smaller bolts via a patented multi-nut mechanism, so that the torque required by the astronauts to undo the bolts does not exceed the 25 foot pounds requirement" said Beland. To deploy the arm, the astronauts have to undo a total of 32 bolts--sequentially, one turn at a time, approximately 6 turns per bolt--a tough and time-consuming task.

Team Fix
The torque required to remove the bolts cannot exceed 25 foot pounds. The bolts passed thorough testing to ensure this, but just a little too close for comfort. "So together, as scientists, we decided to do a more extensive human thermal vacuum test." This is a big vacuum chamber where astronauts, in spacesuits, practice with the tools they'll use in orbit. In this vacuum environment (like space), there is no air, and if for some reason, lubricant is damaged or absent on some areas, just metal to metal contact--which increases the friction between the two parts and could lead, under high loading conditions, to cold welding--so astronauts may require more torque than necessary. After some modifications, the bolts worked fine. All systems go? Not yet. Once removed, these same bolts are stored in tubes on top of which a slider bar is installed to make sure they don't float in orbit. But, with the bolt redesign, the slider bar didn't fit, requiring another fix and more integration testing. Happy ending--the arm is going up, bolts and all, in April 2001 on STS-100.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 06/24/2003
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