Frangible nut

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The frangible nut, commonly confused with an explosive bolt, is a component used in many industries, but most commonly by NASA to sever mechanical connections. It is, by definition, an explosively-splittable nut. The bolt remains intact while the nut itself is split into two or more parts.[1]

Space Shuttle[edit]

Frangible nuts secured the solid rocket boosters (SRB) of the space shuttle, which were bolted to the mobile launcher platform (MLP) until liftoff. On the shuttle, they were separated using a NASA standard detonator or NSD. The space shuttle used two NSDs for the frangible nut atop each of the four 28" long, 3.5" diameter bolts holding each SRB to the MLP. Once detonation occurred, the shuttle lifted free of the MLP. The broken nut and any shrapnel from detonation was captured by energy absorption material, such as metal foam, to prevent damage to the shuttle. In case of NSD failure, or incomplete clearance of the nut from the bolt, the SRB had ample thrust to break the bolt itself and launch unhindered.

Frangible nuts were also used for separation of the two aft structural attachments of the external tank prior to orbital insertion. The attach bolts were driven by the explosive force of the NSDs and a spring into a cavity in the tank strut. The nuts and all residual pieces of the NSDs were caught in a cover assembly within the shuttle.