Questions tagged [materials]

Questions pertaining to materials used for construction of space-worthy objects.

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51 votes
5 answers
11k views

How often is duct tape used during crewed space missions?

It seems Apollo missions carried some variety of gray tape, likely Duct Tape or similar. There's the scene in the movie Apollo 13 and the reality behind it discussed in the video below. Question: How ...
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25 votes
5 answers
28k views

What materials provide the best protection from cosmic radiation?

For long-distance manned missions, such as a mission to Mars, we are inevitably going to have to shield astronauts from cosmic radiation, especially in the event of a solar flare or SEP. What ...
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16 votes
2 answers
1k views

What are the long term effects of Space Weathering on man-made materials?

Space Weathering is described as the type of weathering that occurs to any object exposed to the harsh environment of outer space. Unlike on Earth, a man-made vessel wouldn't be affected by rain or ...
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37 votes
1 answer
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How is unwanted cold welding prevented in space?

Metallic surfaces touching in the vacuum can stick to each other and fuse. This is known as the "cold welding" and it seems to be a possible issue in space if it happens where it should not. ...
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19 votes
1 answer
8k views

What materials are the windows on the US Segment of the ISS made out of?

Presumably the various windows on the different modules of the ISS are consistent on the different segments of the ISS. What are the windows on the US Segment made out of? Do they have special ...
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5 votes
2 answers
4k views

How can phenolic (resin?) handle rocket engine nozzle temperatures?

I just saw @OrganicMarble's survey answer that bravely tackles the wide variety of technologies used to make different types of rocket nozzles. One item caught my eye: Nozzles may also be made of ...
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33 votes
3 answers
2k views

What technological barriers do we need to overcome to build a space elevator?

The concept of a space elevator unfortunately still seems like one confined to fiction, at least for now. However, I've heard some sources claim that carbon nanotubes could be the first material ...
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21 votes
6 answers
14k views

Why not build rockets out of composite materials?

Considering how important mass ratio is for the rocket equation, why are rockets built still out of aluminium, and not some lighter material, perhaps carbon/glass fiber composites? I'm aware ...
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15 votes
1 answer
4k views

How long is it feasible to store cryogenic fuels?

Working with liquid nitrogen all day, I am constantly bothered by their boiling away, forcing me to go get more from the storage dewar. Likewise should be the case with any cryogen, e.g. LH2 and LOX ...
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14 votes
8 answers
9k views

Would a duct tape spacesuit be practical?

Spoilers ahead for season 2 of For All Mankind. Essentially duct tape wrapped around the body, over clothing which looks like standard NASA jumpsuits for pressurized environments onboard spacecraft. ...
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6 votes
1 answer
471 views

What payloads and launch speeds could a sling launcher get using modern materials on the Moon?

The only reference paper I have found on this subject is this paper by Landis, which is a great introduction to sling launchers - but the concept has been around for some time and there must be other ...
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13 votes
1 answer
10k views

What material properties would be necessary to shield a lander from the environment of the Venusian surface?

On March 1, 1982, the Venera 13 lander survived for 127 minutes in an environment with a temperature of 457 °C (855 °F) and a pressure of 89 Earth atmospheres (9.0 MPa). This says nothing of the ...
-7 votes
4 answers
282 views

Inflatable Power Line?

Could the weight of a launch tower or some of a space elevator be mitigated balloons? Similar to the children's air inflated jump houses could a tower be inflated with hydrogen/helium with different ...
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16 votes
1 answer
6k views

What improvements have SpaceX made to their proprietary Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator (PICA-X) heat shield?

PICA-X is a SpaceX proprietary variant on the NASA Ames developed PICA (Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator) heat shield material. NASA quotes decades of rigorous research, testing and development ...
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14 votes
1 answer
2k views

What is the cause of discoloration along the edges of the Quest Joint Airlock thermal cover?

I've noticed this discoloration / stains / burn marks along the edges of the Quest Joint Airlock thermal cover on the hatch before, but they seem even more pronounced and contrasting with the cover's ...
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21 votes
4 answers
1k views

Could a spacecraft be made out of lunar materials?

Would it be possible to construct a working spacecraft using only materials extracted from the lunar surface? If not, what materials would we have to be ferried from Earth for this purpose?
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14 votes
1 answer
3k views

Why has SpaceX changed Starship from carbon fiber composite to stainless steel?

Recently, there was news that SpaceX changed the material used for the BFS/Starship (upper stage of the BFR) from initially planned carbon fiber to metal which seems quite counter-intuitive as carbon ...
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10 votes
3 answers
6k views

What was mylar used for on the Apollo Command Module space craft? Why is it gold after returning from space?

I lived in Hawaii when Apollo 15 returned from the moon. I saw the crew return by helicopter from the ship to Hickham A.F.B. and when the helicopter carrier, the USS Okinawa (LPH 3), returned to ...
39 votes
5 answers
10k views

What exactly makes a bolt "aerospace grade"?

I'm reading various articles on Tesla S electric car and many of them (one example) say that the car body is very strong because of using aerospace grade bolts. What are those I wonder? I found this ...
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17 votes
1 answer
3k views

JWST observing cherry red Tesla roadster

Assuming both launches are successful, if JWST tries to solve Tesla's cherry red body paint light spectrum, what would it tell about it's composition? Could it be confusing if it was an unknown object?...
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17 votes
4 answers
3k views

Can materials be found to make plastic on Mars?

Does Mars contain the materials required to make plastic? If not, can they relatively easily be made, or an adequate substitute found?
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12 votes
2 answers
397 views

What mitigation procedures are in place in space systems to prevent whisker growth?

It has been found (from missions like the Long Duration Exposure Facility, LDEF) that some metals, especially tin and cadmium in solders, used in space-electronics assemblies, form crystal whiskers ...
12 votes
2 answers
2k views

Where could we build a space elevator today (2014)?

A space elevator is an interesting concept, allowing for very low cost transit to orbit. Currently we don't seem to have a technology that will provide a strong enough cable to make the climb from ...
11 votes
1 answer
450 views

Are there relevant resources on the Moon for civil engineering?

We can read about Moon exploitation and making bases on there for long-term colonies. But bringing materials to make buildings there does not makes economical sense, and a large spaceship may be a ...
10 votes
2 answers
5k views

What is the outside of the Soyuz capsule covered in?

When you look at a Soyuz, it seems like the descent and orbital modules are covered in some kind of fabric-like material. You can see wrinkles and it does not look like traditional metal as you might ...
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7 votes
0 answers
240 views

Low energy cements for Mars and Callisto. Waterless cement for the Moon. Any good candidates?

In the non-polar regions of the Moon and Mercury there is a shortage of volatiles, including hydrogen and nitrogen, so they might be regaded as too valuable to be "wasted" to prepare concrete. ...
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6 votes
4 answers
747 views

Can mirrors be made from fabric?

I was recently listening to a talk about JWST and other future astrophysics missions when the speaker talked about many of the size limitations associated with mirrors etc. I then thought perhaps one ...
4 votes
3 answers
623 views

At what size does a bigger solar sail stop increasing your acceleration?

Is there a point where the larger solar sail would not add more thrust? What is the most thrust a solar sail can produce? Can a solar sail be added to an ion engine and work better?
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13 votes
3 answers
960 views

Between a space elevator on Mars versus the Moon, which would have lower material strength requirement?

On one hand, the Moon has lower gravity, and the gravity from Earth also reduces the distance the it has to span. This is particularly true for EML-1, and a little less so for EML-2. I don't know if ...
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12 votes
1 answer
2k views

What exactly is the orange insulation foam used on many different launch vehicle stages?

What exactly is that orange/rust coloured insulation foam on the Space Shuttle external tank, the H-IIA/B, Delta-IV, and so many other launch vehicles? I remember finding the name of it in a NASA ...
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9 votes
2 answers
1k views

Why make X-ray shielding from titanium, when lead is 6 times lighter?

Probes visiting Jupiter and its moons protect their equipment from X-rays with titanium shielding. Juno had 180 kg of the stuff. Europa Clipper is expected to have about that much too. Terrestrial ...
9 votes
3 answers
2k views

What are the common space application adhesives used in Earth orbiting satellites?

For quite some time, I am reading about space adhesives. Selecting the right adhesive for space applications is extremely important, mainly due to the high vacuum (around 10-8 Torr), and the variation ...
6 votes
1 answer
3k views

Is it possible to literally shoot something into space? [duplicate]

Regular spaceship missions are effective but also incredibly expensive. The most discussed alternative of them would be the space elevator, but with our current technology, it isn't possible to ...
6 votes
1 answer
158 views

Is there a very light material that could deorbit without burning up?

Is there a very light material that could deorbit without burning up? I am thinking of a very light, strong, heat resistant thread, rope, net, or sheet that sheds heat so fast as it deorbits that it ...
5 votes
2 answers
541 views

What are some common (but non-obvious) materials that are particularly unsuitable for spaceflight?

If a product was to be made for use in space, there may be certain materials or certain combinations of materials that might work well on Earth, but be particularly unsuitable for spaceflight ...
5 votes
2 answers
326 views

How common is resin/epoxy sealing of space-faring equipment nowadays?

In the olden days most of space-faring electronics would be embedded in resin. Hey, that's where the term "embedded software" comes from! That came with a number of advantages like pressure-proofing ...
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4 votes
1 answer
229 views

Do plasticizers evaporate in space?

A recent statement in an answer got me wondering. I looked and could not find an answer on space.se Polymers (think plastic cladding on wires) has "plasticizers", which make it elastic instead of ...
2 votes
1 answer
292 views

What might the description "tiny glass vermicelli at a microstructure level" refer to? (SpaceX Starship heat shield tiles)

In the Starship Update at about 21:05 Musk says: We’ve gone through various iterations of heat shield, there’s a lot of ways to skin a cat here. Ultimately we ...
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2 votes
1 answer
196 views

Cubesat surface material

In wikipedia I read that the structure of the cubesat are made of aluminum alloys of 7075, 6061, 5005, and 5052. Is this the surface layer of the satellite or it is necessary to cover it with kapton ...
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12 votes
1 answer
257 views

What cryogenic selective surface materials have high Technology Readiness Level?

NIAC ("NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts") has approved the following research application for 2015 funding: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/cryogenic-selective-surfaces Cryogenic Selective ...
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20 votes
1 answer
3k views

Is the technology behind the Shuttle's heat-shielding tiles used in any product today?

Many NASA inventions have had subsequent lives in the commercial marketplace. Have the Space Shuttle's heat-shielding tiles also had a second life?
7 votes
4 answers
2k views

Are composites used by space programs?

Wikipedia says this about the Boeing Dreamliner: The 787 was designed to be the first production airliner with the fuselage assembled with one-piece composite barrel sections instead of the ...
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18 votes
4 answers
10k views

What is the base of a launchpad made of?

I'm curious as to what launchpad bases are made of - it seems to always be made of concrete, but wouldn't the concrete disintegrate rather quickly with jets of fire pounding on it?
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15 votes
6 answers
5k views

What are the considerations for smelting iron and aluminum in space?

Iron and aluminum are the two most common metals in the Earth's crust. While we can't know for sure what we'll find for raw resources when we start building factories in space, if we assume that iron ...
13 votes
1 answer
710 views

What are the windows on the Russian segement of the ISS made of?

Presumably the various windows on the different modules of the ISS are consistent on the different segments of the ISS. What are the windows on the Russian Segment made out of? Do they have special ...
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8 votes
2 answers
983 views

How feasible is it to grow algae on Mars to use as food, plastic and oxygen production?

I am currently researching the idea of growing spirulina algae on Mars for as a renewable source of oxygen, food and material. So the question arises: How feasible would it be to grow spirulina in an ...
25 votes
3 answers
5k views

How realistic is the 1 kg/km² solar sail in "Death's End"?

(This question has been migrated from the SciFi StackExchange.) From Cixin Liu's 2010 sci-fi novel Death's End (pages 68–69): "A radiation sail can be made very thin and light. Based on the ...
13 votes
3 answers
3k views

Does Mars contain materials that could be used to build a space colony?

If a manned mission to mars was made with the hope of colonization, we would probably need to make many of our structures there out of materials found there - they would probably be simply too heavy ...
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12 votes
1 answer
1k views

Can you print 3D with iron in space?

A couple of recent questions; How is the unwanted cold welding prevented in space? & Would unpainted iron or steel rust in space? indicate that some pure metals like iron that have been forged in ...
8 votes
0 answers
183 views

Does the kinetic impact of gas particles cause erosion to the surface of objects in orbit?

When satellites or space stations orbit the Earth, they are constantly experiencing a low level of aerodynamic drag from Earth's atmosphere. The ISS needs to be reboosted every few months to account ...
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