Self-loosening of bolts in non-permanent connections has been the subject of a myriad of investigations; however, because the vast majority of these studies focused on applications with long-term service conditions involving creep and/or cyclic (working or vibratory) loading, there are no analytical techniques that have been developed to address the load decay behavior of bolted assemblies with gaskets under a primary followed up by a secondary torque. The Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate (GUCP) includes a gasketed ASME-type flange assembly that transfers pressurized, cryogenic hydrogen from the Space Transportation System (STS). Although the threaded stud material is nominally elastic under service conditions, the gasket material, a polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE) matrix filled with 25% chopped glass fibers, undergoes viscous, strain hardening deformation. The consequence of over-torquing the assembly is yielding the stud. Alternatively, the consequence of under-torquing is premature loosening and subsequent fuel leakage. As such, identifying the interactions between assembly configuration, initial torque, etc. to relaxation behavior of the assembly has been identified as a means to reduce the dwell period (the time between initial torque and re-torque). Research is carried out to identify the optimal torque parameters that confer a minimal dwell period. This article documents the Gasket Relaxation and Re-Torque Optimization (GRRO) program used to modify procedures employed when connecting the flanges to the fuel tank of the Space Transportation System prior to a launch.

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