Hermetic connectors are crucial for space applications

Keeping sensitive electronics online in space is imperative for mission success


The Artemis 1 rocket sits on a launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida in March 2022.

NASA is planning to launch the first flight of its Artemis Program – aptly named Artemis 1 – on Nov. 14, 2022. NASA hopes this will be the first of several Artemis spaceflights, culminating with astronauts eventually returning to the Moon as early as 2025 and potentially visiting Mars one day. 

The Artemis Program, the first NASA-led manned spacecraft program since the Space Shuttle, features the Space Launch System (SLS) expendable launch vehicle and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. There are billions of dollars on the line that these two systems, operating congruently like their Saturn V and Apollo forebearers, will return humans to a place they haven’t been since December 1972.

Space is not a great environment for sensitive electronics to begin with, let alone the missions the Artemis Program aspires to accomplish. The margin for error in these severely harsh environments - especially in the high-stakes Lunar and Martian landings expected to take place through the Artemis program - is razor thin. Hermetic connectors play a major role in ensuring things don’t go wrong up there.

Why Hermetic Connectors?

Any equipment intended to operate in this grueling environment has a lot of hazards working against it. And whether it’s for use with the Artemis Program, low Earth orbit satellites, International Space Station systems, or the essential equipment astronauts rely on for life preservation and to complete their tasks outside the pressurized cabin of their spacecraft, it must work no matter what.

astronaut space

Astronauts, space vehicles, and essential equipment must contend with daunting risks such as fluctuating extreme temperatures, intense vibrations, and punishing radiation. There also isn’t nearly any pressure in space, which has a pressure of 1.322 × 10-11 Pa and is practically a vacuum.

Hermetic connectors provide an airtight seal that protects electrical connections in space systems from the elements. These connectors can be ruggedized and are among the most durable in the industry, with a seal that prevents air, gas, and moisture from penetrating the assembly. Within the connector industry, these seals are typically a glass-to-metal seal or an epoxy seal  – the former capable of operating at higher temperatures, and the latter offering greater design flexibility.

Hermetic connectors are essential components of space-bound equipment such as that aboard the Artemis Program’s vehicle systems and help ensure critical electrical systems remain online under the extreme circumstances in space.

2m hermetic sealed connector

Amphenol Hermetically Sealed Connectors

Amphenol Aerospace is a premier manufacturer of hermetic connectors and offers a variety of options depending on your application needs. Several of our products are optimized for space environments, and many of our products can be outfitted with a hermetic seal upon request.

Some of these options include:

Air-Tight Lightweight Hermetic

Airtight Hermetic connector

Designed as a space-oriented hermetic option, the Amphenol’s Air-Tight Lightweight Hermetic Connector offers strict leak rates and significant weight savings and can operate under a wide range of temperatures.

The Air-Tight is constructed with aluminum shells and is 35 percent lighter than standard glass-to-metal hermetic connectors, which is perfect for satellites and expendable launch vehicles where weight reduction is a priority. The Air-Tight offers comprehensive hermetic sealing with a 1x10-7 cc/sec helium per-second leak rate.

Helium is the gas of choice in hermetic testing because helium atoms are smaller than oxygen atoms, which comprise roughly 20 percent of the air around us.

The Air-Tight has also been tested extensively to ensure it can sustain the fluctuating temperatures of space. It’s undergone 100 cycles of thermal shock at temperatures between minus 65 degrees Celsius and 200 degrees Celsius, and 1,000 hours of thermal aging at 100 degrees Celsius.

Air-Tight can achieve a hermetic seal at 30 PSI and is ideal for low-pressure environments.

2M Hermetic Micro Miniature

Hermetic Sealing

The 2M Hermetic Micro-Miniature features the durability of Amphenol’s standard MIL-DTL-38999 connectors in a smaller and lighter package and with an excellent hermetic seal. This pocket-sized connector meets or exceeds most environmental and performance criteria of standard 38999 connectors at less than half the size.

2M Hermetic Connectors achieve a 1x10-8 cc/sec helium leak rate and come in multiple coupling technologies, including push-pull, bayonet, dual-start, and tri-start. Tri-Start, push-pull, and dual-Start all offer exceptional EMI shielding.

Series Five Lightweight Military Circular

38999 series 5 connector

Another excellent entry in Amphenol’s line of ruggedized connector products, the compact Series Five Lightweight Military Circular connector is 20 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter than MIL-DTL-38999 Series III connectors and is available with a hermetic seal upon request.

Series Five connectors are the next evolutionary step in the development of the industry-standard MIL-DTL-38999 connector series that began in the 1960s with the launch of Series I and Series II and provide higher voltage capabilities than Series III.

Contact us today to learn more about the hermetic options offered at Amphenol Aerospace.