From the Apollo Program to Mars Missions and Beyond, Eaton’s Bethel Facility Continues 50-Year Legacy of NASA Support

Products designed and manufactured in Bethel have been used in civilian, military and commercial space programs, including space shuttles, space launch vehicles, long-range military missiles and the International Space Station.


BETHEL, Conn. … Products made by diversified industrial manufacturer Eaton Corporation’s aerospace facility in Bethel have helped launch rockets, land men on the moon and explore the solar system. As the nation sets its sights on a manned mission to Mars, Eaton continues to develop reliable products and technologies to support NASA’s next generation of space programs.

“It’s quite an achievement and an honor for our products to fly on NASA missions,” said Breck Stringer, Bethel plant manager. “The products designed and manufactured by Bethel employees reflect some of the most highly advanced technologies available in aerospace. Our continued relationship with NASA speaks to the innovation of our employees, who stay focused on a project until they find a solution that exceeds our customers’ expectations.”

The Bethel facility began supplying pressure switches and sensors to the aviation industry in the 1950s and quickly gained a reputation for developing highly reliable pressure-sensing solutions for custom applications.

When the nation’s attention shifted to outer space, Eaton extended its pressure sensor technology to NASA beginning with the Apollo program in 1961. In following decades, products designed and manufactured in Bethel have been used in civilian, military and commercial space programs, including space shuttles, space launch vehicles, long-range military missiles and the International Space Station.

To qualify for space-rated applications, Eaton sensors must be able to operate flawlessly in harsh and rapidly changing environments, where temperatures could range from as low as -425º F to above 300º F. They must be fabricated from ultra-strong materials to withstand high shock and vibration levels and ionizing radiation without affecting performance.

Eaton’s Bethel facility has successfully met design challenges for a broad spectrum of applications to become a preferred supplier to NASA, Boeing, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and other customers requiring space-rated pressure-sensing solutions.

Last year the Bethel facility was among an exclusive group of suppliers recognized by NASA and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne for long-standing contributions to the space shuttle main engine program. A pressure transducer originally manufactured in 1982 by Eaton helped power eight shuttle missions.

Eaton also has developed products for NASA’s Cassini spacecraft mission to Saturn, the Curiosity rover scheduled to reach Mars in August, and the Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer, or GEM, set for launch in 2014.

Eaton’s Bethel facility continues to supply production sensors for NASA, in addition to engineering support for failure-investigation services and technical analysis. Recently, the engineering staff at Bethel had the opportunity to examine an Eaton sensor that had flown on a number of space shuttle missions over a 15-year span.

“When we examined the sensor, we found that the sensor provided the same high level of accuracy as it did when it was initially shipped,” said Stringer. “That’s the level of performance we aim for — to design and build products that last and that can be counted on to deliver the highest levels of reliability, whether they operate in airplanes or in spacecraft.”

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