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Let's assume that social activist shut down metal mines in future. And we plan to built and launch another space station. Can we build it with carbon fibre? or is there any alternative to it? Alternatives do not include CNT and Graphene

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  • $\begingroup$ What will the rocket engines in the booster be made of with no metal. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Feb 10 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble this doesn't say "no metal", it suggests no supply of new metal. Metal can be recycled, rockets can be reused... $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 10 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ @uhoh you're right. It's a totally believable scenario. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Feb 10 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble that's two complains now about things that were not said. The question is about carbon fiber as a structural material in space. Maybe just helpfully suggest to this new user that the reason one might do so is immaterial and can distract some people? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 10 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ Darn those social activists! $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Feb 10 at 22:01
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A bare carbon fiber layup will degrade quickly, because the epoxy that holds the fibers together weakens with exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which is much greater outside the atmosphere than on Earth's surface. A good paint would help.

Also, the epoxy also weakens (softens) with exposure to the kind of heat that sustained solar exposure would cause. Also also, it becomes brittle with exposure to the cold of shadow. Again, good white paint, or "rotisserie" flying like the Apollo craft did, or, better yet, a metallic skin to both block radiation and dissipate thermal extremes.

Practically, epoxy composites would be trustworthy for internal structures at most. To "build" a space station out of carbon fiber might take so much metal that you might as well make the whole thing out of (recycled) metal in the first place.

A typical module on the ISS, Kibo,

is made from stainless steel, titanium, and aluminum.

Carbon can be made into things like the heat shield on Parker Solar Probe, but such construction is far more exotic than the carbon fiber in tennis rackets or Boeings or even rockets.

carbon composite foam sandwiched between two carbon plates and coated with white ceramic paint

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  • $\begingroup$ Isn't there some other way to do all this, cheaper than today's ISS $\endgroup$ – Momobear Feb 11 at 6:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Gurkirat The expense of ISS isn't in the raw materials. It's in the engineering. In general, for most applications, carbon fiber is more expensive than competing materials. $\endgroup$ – Tristan Feb 11 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Tristan You mean the rocket launches? And assembly? $\endgroup$ – Momobear Feb 11 at 22:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Gurkirat Research,Design, and Testing take the most cost. Then there is the small matter of launching the modules to the ISS, with costs at that time reaching even $ 20000 per pound. The actual materials are almost irrelevant. If you could build the whole ISS from PURE METALLIC GOLD, it would only increase its cost by 17 percent. $\endgroup$ – PcMan Feb 12 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ Gold has great thermal properties, but for strength per pound it's hardly better than chocolate. $\endgroup$ – Camille Goudeseune Feb 12 at 21:00

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