Outer space is the region beyond the earth’s atmosphere where there is little to no air. That means you will need a specialized spacecraft to travel to space. While a trip to space sounds like a great adventure, getting there is not as easy as you think, thanks to the earth’s massive gravitational impact on all bodies that attempt to leave its surface.
NASA is one space-exploring organization that has accomplished great heights in outer space over the years, including landing the first man on the moon in the 1960s Apollo program.
But how are spacecraft made? You need to learn a bit of rocket science to understand how spaceships work, and how they are manufactured.
What Is A Spaceship?
Spaceships are vehicles that are designed for taking trips to space and orbiting the earth. The term “payload” refers to the object that is carried into space in a spaceship. Examples may include astronauts, sensors, and telescopes. These are contained in the launch vehicle, which takes the payload into space.
Today’s space launch vehicles come with stages that drop off mid-way the flight. Soon, engineers are hoping to build spaceships that will have only a single stage.
What Metals Are Used In Spaceships And Why?
Spacecraft need to be strong but light enough to have a better chance of overcoming the earth’s gravitational attraction with relatively less fuel –the propellant is often heavy and costly. Space companies usually use aluminum and its composite materials to build spacecraft because this metal is light but steady. By using titanium alloys, engineers can reinforce the bodies of spaceships.
A spacecraft also needs to have excellent thermal protection so that it can survive the scorching temperatures of re-entry. Accordingly, space shuttles use thermal protection tiles made from ceramic composites. The bottom of the tiles contains carbon composite to provide the best heat resistance.
The Weight Factor: Spacecraft Of The Future Will Be Manufactured From Cutting-Edge Materials
In spacecraft design, weight is fairly proportional to money. The ultimate challenge for the next generation of space vehicles is the cost of materials.
According to Dr. Neville Marzwell of NASA’s Next Decadal Planning Team, even if all the existing challenges of space travel are solved today, studying the solar system needs to be feasible and affordable in the future.
Cutting down the cost of space travel simply means reducing weight. And eliminating each pound of material means money is saved on propelling that weight into space. Lighter spacecraft will need to have more efficient engines consuming less fuel. This will result in saving more weight and providing benefits in terms of cost.
The goal is to shed more weight while improving safety, efficiency, reliability and performance. Space scientists are looking at new technologies that can help spacecraft slim down.
For instance, gossamer materials (ultra-thin films) are thought to be useful for making lighter antennas or photovoltaic panels instead of bulkier components. If the race for these smaller materials is to be won, a submilimeter manufacturer will play a significant role in space vehicle designs.