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Plugs for Space

Expansion Plugs in Earth's Orbit and Beyond

The Lee Company has been involved in spaceflight since NASA was known as NACA. Lee products were involved in some of the earliest efforts to reach beyond our atmosphere – and the first component to do so was a Lee Plug®.

In 1961, NASA and the US Air Force began testing the Atlas rocket, a booster that would eventually be used in the Mercury missions to send the first US astronauts to space. This rocket was notable in that it contained a Lee Plug, a custom design made of an unusual copper-beryllium alloy. This plug was designed to seal cross-drilled holes in copper manifolds that controlled flow from liquid oxygen tanks to the engines of the launch vehicle.

Although the material may have been unusual, the design was not. Lee plugs are designed to form a permanent leak-tight seal without the use of O-rings, threads, or sealants. They remain the best-seller for The Lee Company, with well over 100 million plugs having been used on aircraft, missiles, spacecraft, and other sophisticated hydraulic systems.

The Lee Plug® Expansion Plug remains the best seller for many reasons. Not only are we the original OEM and the only qualified supplier of the single-point-of-failure technology, but we also bring a level of problem-solving, experience, and a commitment to quality that sets us and the product apart from the rest of the market. Through continuous innovation, our plug designs have evolved from the original flagship model. They now include a range of different strength and sealing characteristics, even including reusable threaded plugs.

Since 1961, components from The Lee Company have appeared in every launch vehicle, satellite, capsule, and rover launched from the US, Europe, and Japan – including both incumbent and New Space organizations. Since manifolds for spacecraft are often unique, we’re happy to create custom designs on request. Whether your solution is off-the-shelf or one-of-a-kind, you can rest assured knowing that Lee products always adhere to exacting standards for quality and performance.

Lee Plug® Expansion Plugs

The founding, flagship product from The Lee Company. It works like this: the cylindrical plug body contains a tapered hole partway through. The body is inserted into a properly reamed hole. A tapered pin is then inserted into the plug itself. This causes the plug to expand in a controlled manner. Lands and grooves on the side of the plug then bite into the sides of the hole, creating multiple metal-to-metal seals. See Installation Process Specification 203 (which applies to all Lee expansion plugs) for more information.

Lee Plugs are manufactured to exacting tolerances. Every process is precisely controlled. Each lot of pins and plugs undergoes rigorous inspection and acceptance testing. This ensures performance when any failure could be catastrophic.

Standard Lee Plugs are available in multiple grades of aluminum, stainless steel, and Monel, plus titanium and MP35N. They can be purchased in diameters from 0.093 to 0.656 of an inch or metric sizes from 2.5 to 8.0 mm.

Lee R.F.O.® (Radial Force Only) Plugs

Lee R.F.O. Plugs are designed to seal holes in thin walls or fragile materials. Designed to be easily removable, these plugs do not require a support shoulder and the installation system ensures that no downward pressure is applied to the product.

Lee R.F.O. Plugs are available in aluminum and can be found in standard diameters ranging from 0.156 to 0.875 of an inch.

Lee QIP® (Quick Installation Plug) Plugs

The Lee QIP was developed to provide an easier method of handling and installing the smallest plug sizes. This is accomplished by pre-installing the pin into the plug. This pre-assembled component adapts more easily to automated installation. Despite their smaller size, these plugs experience no loss of strength, with proof pressures up to 12,000 psi.

The Lee QIP is available in aluminum and is offered in four standard sizes: 0.093, 0.125, 0.156, and 0.187 inch diameters.

Lee A.F.O.® (Axial Force Only) Plugs

Unlike other plugs in our product family, A.F.O. Plugs are both removable and reusable due to their threaded design, which allows technicians easy access to sealed passageways. In spite of this, the A.F.O. Plug still seals up to 56,000 psi. Each plug features a floating seal that self-aligns, allowing for threaded holes that aren’t concentric with the through-hole. Lastly, the A.F.O. designation means that no radial force is applied during installation, making this component suitable for thinner-walled housings. See Installation Process Specification P1013 (which applies to all A.F.O. Plugs) for more information.

A.F.O. Plugs are made from stainless steel and are available in standard diameters from 0.190 to 0.625 of an inch.

Lee Dual Sealing A.F.O.® Plugs

The Dual Sealing A.F.O. Plug comes with all the strength and ease of use offered by our regular A.F.O. Plugs, but with added safety features for use in hydraulic systems. The incorporation of an O-ring allows users to vent gas out of a side port or safely release trapped high-pressure gas. This allows the Dual Sealing A.F.O. Plug to be used for “fill and drain” applications. In addition, a newer higher pressure version of this product is available with backup rings rated to seal up to 15,000 psi when partially open.

The Dual Sealing A.F.O. Plug is available in stainless steel and can be purchased in diameters of 0.3125, 0.375, 0.500, and 0.750 of an inch.

Lee Cross Port Plugs

Lee Cross Port Plugs are a plugging solution specifically engineered to seal cross port passageways. This configuration is a variant of the original Lee Plug® that set industry standards over 65 years ago. A smooth wall design combined with the field-proven controlled expansion principle creates a permanent, leak-proof seal, without the need for O-rings or sealants. Installation is simple and reliable, and the plug requires no maintenance thereafter.

Lee Cross Port Plugs are ideal for isolating sections of a fluidic manifold. They are also used to plug deep passageways that are difficult to access with conventional sealing methods.

Lee Cross Port Plugs are constructed from 6Al-4V Titanium. They have been qualified for proof pressures over 20,000 psi and at temperatures up to 400°F. Configurations are available in 0.250, 0.281, and 0.343 inch diameters.

Support & Resources

Support & Resources from a Team that Speaks Your Language

Spaceflight is an exact science. It’s our job to help you identify the best-fit components you need and empower you to get the most out of their performance. Leverage the resources below to learn more.