A significantly deteriorated ball bearing mechanism from a body flap actuator on Space Shuttle OV-103 was disassembled and the balls submitted for analysis in conjunction with Return to Flight activities. The OV-103 balls, referred to as the “black balls”, were subjected to X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) and Raman micro spectroscopy, surface profilometry, and optical and electron microscopy. The spectroscopic results in combination with microscopy analysis allowed a determination of the lubricant degradation pathway. The chemical attack mechanism does not adequately explain the unique visual appearance of the black balls. Numerous efforts have unsuccessfully focused on duplication of the phenomena causing this unique surface structure and appearance of the black balls. Further detail will be presented supporting these conclusions along with plausible explanations of the unique black appearance to the balls.

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