67

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 never listed as such, each CM and LM launched with quantity 1 of part # SEB12100050, which is variously described as TAPE,UTILITY, TAPE,ROLL, or just TAPE. I ...


47

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 missions later, on STS-127, this in-space photo shows that there appears to be even more duct tape applied. (NASA image source: https://images.nasa.gov/...


43

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 suggest I have some (dusty) knowledge of this subject. While the quality control is very much a part of the process, as suggested, that alone is not the only ...


32

I'll mostly focus on prevention of accidental cold-welding in vacuum of space, but for reference, one of the possible causes for the Galileo high-gain antenna deployment anomaly that was considered (1) was also "Retention of the ribs at the mid-point restraint due to friction, cold welding, or adhesion". Preventing accidental cold-welding: ...


32

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


32

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/or leaking immediately, it would clearly help, but in the same moment, the "suit" would turn so stiff from pressure that it would be impossible to ...


29

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 density of $0.77~\mathrm{mg}/\mathrm{m}^2$. Being a single atomic layer of a light atom, graphene is the absolute lower bound for the areal density of pretty ...


27

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 just a proton. Or hydrogen atoms. Either one can react. The solar wind is not very energetic but it contains small amounts of other elements like oxygen and ...


26

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 brittle) and thousands of degrees of air resistance and combustion radiation (where composites simply burn), and brutal temperature shifts once in space. Never ...


24

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 dangerous asbestos fibers from the blocks they use as soldering bases. Space Shuttle heat shield tiles offer jewelers a safer soldering base with temperature ...


24

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 per se, instead it's a nasty, extremely toxic semiconductor. GaAs is soluble in HCl which means if you eat it you are eating soluble arsenic. So don't eat it. ...


23

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 individual components of this net force aren't being distributed evenly. Consider, say, the first kilometer of tether from the ground. This is being pulled down by ...


22

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 significantly fewer supply launches. The primary benefit is that it can allow for the repair of a system the astronauts would otherwise have to do without until the ...


22

The bearings on the CMG (Control Moment Gyro) rotors use beryllium, which is pretty toxic when you machine it.


20

There's a pretty good Wikipedia page about it, which lists a couple of options: Water makes for fairly good radiation shielding (also discussed with land based radiation here), but is relatively heavy and is consumed during flight. Liquid hydrogen is also good, and is used as fuel, so it will already be on board. However, this too is consumed during flight....


20

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 wavelengths. The radiators on a spacecraft are not in radiative equilibrium, since they lose heat to radiation. They emit heat in the longwave infrared spectrum, but ...


20

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 I have not been able to find them right now. It was also used to assemble the "fly swatter" for satellite repair on STS-51D:


20

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. Robert Zubrin When reading this report one has to keep in mind that they only look for the properties of the sail itself, not taking into account structural ...


19

(with considerable help from "Why we'll probably never build a space elevator") You have laid out a good foundation, for the first, and largest challenge, namely the material for the cable itself. Carbon Nanbotubes are the best substance we know of to build a Space Elevator. In their purest form, they have a tensile strength of over 100 GPa. The exact ...


19

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 they realize they need something that didn't come initially with the ship. So far I can only find a few things that have been made, including a ratchet, several ...


19

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 wavelengths that aren't visible. The spatial resolution is around 70 milli-arc seconds. That means that the Roadster, being about 4m in size (roughly) in it's ...


19

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 hitting the material in question. At possible collision speeds of up to 14 km/s (for debris, much higher for micrometeoroids) everything becomes a bullet. The ...


18

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" as having such a high plasma frequency that the light barely penetrates a tiny fraction of a wavelength before being re-radiated backwards by all those ...


18

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 remain strong at vicious temperature extremes. Many plastics become brittle when cold. Mars gets down to -60°C at night at its warmest, Mars probes can expect to ...


17

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 production, and the entire history of the part must be recorded. The tests and paperwork often account for most of the cost of the part. \$100 bolts are not ...


17

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 safely for tanks. Carbon composites failed standard tests used by e.g. NASA to determine flammability. In 2001, a study was done to re-examine this decision. To ...


17

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 actively cool the hot side with liquid methane. Steel is better at coping with this than carbon fiber. Tweet 1: Usable strength/weight of full hard stainless ...


16

The key material to produce to make plastics is the production of ethylene, which is $C_2H_4$. According to The Case for Mars, this can be produced by the reaction $2CO+4H_2 \rightarrow C_2H_4+2H_2O$, with the presence of an Iron catalyst.. And the carbon monoxide comes from $6H_2+2CO_2 \rightarrow 2H_2O+2CO+4H_2$. Thus, the key to making plastics on Mars is ...


16

Mars has extensive iron oxide ore. Much of it on the surface. Not readily extracted, but extractable with the correct smelting process. It has silicates, as well; this allows for glass. It has carbon dioxide; with a solar panel farm, and a cracking solution, that's oxygen for the taking. And that's just materials available readily at surface. Mars will ...


15

ESA-built Cupola uses "Fused silica and borosilicate glass" for all its windows including biggest 80 cm one (reference is http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/International_Space_Station/Cupola) In http://www.esa.int/esapub/bulletin/bulletin137/bul137h_deloo.pdf on page 7 (labelled 66) there is text about previous 50 cm window on ISS The ...


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