68 votes

How often is duct tape used during crewed space missions?

Gray tape was used during the Apollo missions, although only mentioned specifically by that name twice. The stowage manifests have several entries for tape. Although "duct tape" or "gray tape" is ...
user avatar
  • 46.5k
56 votes
Accepted

Why is tantalum being used for the Hayabusa bullets?

The main reason for using tantalum is the fact that it is a rare element. When they capture the debris thrown up by the bullet, the fact that the bullet itself is tantalum makes it easy to distinguish ...
user avatar
  • 1,164
52 votes

What exactly makes a bolt "aerospace grade"?

Disclaimer: I worked as an aerospace engineer for 15 years for the USAF. Our organization managed the 53 Federal Stock Group (1) (among others), which includes Bolts, Screws, etc. By this I mean to ...
user avatar
47 votes

How often is duct tape used during crewed space missions?

When I was in shuttle Endeavour's cockpit in May 2008 (the Orbiter was in the Orbiter Processing Facility) I noticed this duct tape applied to the aft Multifunction Display Unit. (personal photo) Two ...
user avatar
33 votes

Would a duct tape spacesuit be practical?

If the suit would be useful, it has to be inflated. Which is definitively not how it looks like in images. If you could manage duct tape to hold the inner pressure for a moment without rupturing and/...
user avatar
  • 1,781
32 votes

Were any toxic metals used in the International Space Station?

The Urine Processor in the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System uses hexavalent chromium as a pretreatment solution for the urine.
user avatar
32 votes
Accepted

What makes aluminum aerospace grade?

Read David Hammen's comments below the opening question. once you get past the (well deserved) sarcastic humor he absolutely nails the answer. There is no checklist for getting an alloy of anything to ...
user avatar
  • 2,239
30 votes

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

A solar sail with an areal density of $1~\mathrm{kg}/\mathrm{km}^2 = 1~\mathrm{mg}/\mathrm{m}^2 =0.001~\mathrm{g}/\mathrm{m}^2$ is impossible by known materials science because graphene has an areal ...
user avatar
30 votes

Could sheets of stacked graphene be used as part of a heat shield, since its melting point is 3000k to 5000 K

For a non ablative heat shield you need a material with a very high melting point and a very low thermal conductivity. It should not burn in hot air. Unfortunately graphene seems to have a high ...
user avatar
  • 46.6k
27 votes
Accepted

How does steel deteriorate in translunar space?

The spectral data came from the surface of the material only a few atoms thick which is exposed to hard vacuum. The solar wind has ions of many materials. It is mostly hydrogen, which as an ion is ...
user avatar
26 votes
Accepted

Why not build rockets out of composite materials?

Composite materials work well in temperatures commonly encountered in all weathers on Earth, but rocket elements swing between temperatures of liquid hydrogen (where polymer components become very ...
user avatar
  • 52.6k
24 votes
Accepted

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

There's a Spinoffs from the Space Shuttle Program page hosted on the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center portal. According to it: Jewelry Design — Jewelers no longer have to worry about inhaling ...
user avatar
  • 75.5k
24 votes

Were any toxic metals used in the International Space Station?

note: protests in comments have led me to add the following sentence. Arsenic is a toxic metal and arsenic is used on the ISS, but the arsenic used on the ISS as discussed below is not a toxic metal ...
user avatar
  • 148k
23 votes

Why does the material for space elevators have to be really strong?

Supplemental to the other answers; you are correct that the net force on the tether would be minimal, since the rotation of the counterweight would counteract the force of gravity. But, the ...
user avatar
  • 331
22 votes

Do 3D printers in space stations mean a significant cost reduction?

A 3D printer on station isn't likely to lead to direct cost savings; the range of items it can replace are limited, and it has to be supplied with feedstock mass in any case; it won't allow for ...
user avatar
22 votes

Were any toxic metals used in the International Space Station?

The bearings on the CMG (Control Moment Gyro) rotors use beryllium, which is pretty toxic when you machine it.
user avatar
  • 16.8k
21 votes
Accepted

Why aren't the ISS's nor Space Shuttle's radiators black?

Kirchhoff's law is only valid for objects in radiative equilibrium. The emissivity and absorptivity of a material are the same for a given wavelength, but can vary dramatically for different ...
user avatar
  • 2,490
21 votes

How often is duct tape used during crewed space missions?

My favorite use to DT during the shuttle program was by Story Musgrave. He had problems with his communication gear, so here was his solution: I recall other photos of his engineering solution, but ...
user avatar
  • 440
20 votes

What exactly makes a bolt "aerospace grade"?

Parts for use in aircraft have to be certified. This means they need to be produced from standardized materials, using a standardized and traceable process. The part must be checked thoroughly during ...
user avatar
  • 121k
20 votes

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

There are four(ish) primary contributors to "space weathering" of any material (natural or synthetic) in space: Micrometeoroid and debris environment: This is the result of small stuff ...
user avatar
  • 4,129
20 votes

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

There is a extensive summary report on possible improvements of solar sail materials: "Ultra-Thin Solar Sails for Interstellar Travel - Phase I Final Report" December 1999, Dean Spieth, Dr. ...
user avatar
  • 12.8k
19 votes

What exactly makes a bolt "aerospace grade"?

While not a matter of materials science, my A&P gave me his explanation of the subject when my plane was in for annual: Mechanic: These two screws are identical. This one comes from Home Depot ...
user avatar
  • 291
19 votes

Do 3D printers in space stations mean a significant cost reduction?

The 3-D printer on the ISS is more for testing purposes than anything. The idea is that for really long duration missions, a 3-D printer will allow them to make something in case something breaks, or ...
user avatar
  • 118k
19 votes
Accepted

JWST observing cherry red Tesla roadster

First of all, can the color even be seen? James Webb has a spectrum of 600 nm at the lowest end, which means it can just barely see the color red. In addition, it could potentially be seen in other ...
user avatar
  • 118k
18 votes

Why not build rockets out of composite materials?

Edit: added more information on why composites aren't common yet. Most of a rocket's structure consists of LOX and fuel tanks. Historically, carbon composites were viewed as too flammable to be used ...
user avatar
  • 121k
18 votes
Accepted

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

According to tweets from Elon, at least part of the decision is due to their design for dealing with the reentry heat: instead of adding ablators to cool the craft on reentry, Starship is going to ...
user avatar
  • 12.2k
18 votes

How does steel deteriorate in translunar space?

Light interacts with fresh metal surfaces in only the first few atomic layers. What makes metals "metals" is the very high electron density, and we can think of that electron "plasma&...
user avatar
  • 148k
18 votes

Could a Mars surface rover/probe be made of plastic?

Plastics are great, however they don't have the temperature range or strength of metals. You need a material that is light weight, able to withstand the forces of a launch and re-entry, and able to ...
user avatar
  • 18.9k
16 votes
Accepted

Could aluminum undergo a thermite reaction with Martian dust?

Probably not any more likely than on Earth. Actually, Curiosity's (MSL) rover's wheels are made out of aluminum and they've been grinding through iron oxide rust that gives Martian regolith and the ...
user avatar
  • 75.5k
16 votes

Why is tantalum being used for the Hayabusa bullets?

Tantalum is an extremely dense, readily obtainable, machinable and hard metal. Lead and gold are fairly soft and malleable, and wouldn't retain their shape upon impact. While tantalum is relatively ...
user avatar
  • 148k

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible