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  Home | NASA Parts Selection List (NPSL) | Cadmium Plating Prohibition

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Prohibited Materials

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European Space Agency (ESA)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

Cadmium Plating Prohibition

Policy:

Cadmium plating is prohibited on EEE parts and associated hardware. In some applications use of Cadmium plating may be acceptable via a Project approved waiver process that includes review and approval by both Materials and Parts Engineering disciplines.

Reference: 

  • MSFC-HDBK-527, Materials Selection List for Space Hardware Systems
  • JSC 11123, Space Transportation System Payload Safety Guidelines Handbook

Rationale:

There are several reasons for prohibiting the use of Cadmium plating in space flight electronic systems.

  • Cadmium is known to sublimate in a hard vacuum environment (especially at temperatures above 75C). The sublimation products, which are conductive, can redeposit resulting in short circuits. The sublimation products may also interfere with sensitive optics.
  • Cadmium is a toxic material that should not be used in manned spaceflight applications
  • Cadmium is subject to the spontaneous growth of Cadmium whiskers. The propensity of Cadmium to grow whiskers appears to be lower than that of zinc and especially tin. Cadmium whiskers (like tin whiskers) grow spontaneously and are capable of causing electrical failures ranging from parametric deviations to sustained plasma arcing that can result in catastrophic short circuits. See prohibition against pure tin plating for additional insight regarding the risks of metal whiskers.

Recommendations:

Cadmium plating is commonly used on connectors, connector hardware and mechanical hardware such as fasteners. It provides excellent resistance to salt corrosion and is therefore offered in many military specifications predominantly for use in naval applications. However, most NASA applications are not concerned with salt corrosion and the risks associated with use of Cadmium plating noted above outweigh the benefits of its use in spaceflight applications. There are several alternatives to Cadmium plating that are suited for spaceflight use. For connectors, electroless nickel plating is preferred. Gold plating is preferred when the application requires additional shielding effectiveness or low residual magnetism. Passivated stainless steel is the preferred material for hardware items such as fasteners. Consult your materials or parts specialists for suggested alternatives to Cadmium plating.


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Last Modified: September 20, 2001