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The future of steel in space


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SpaceX’s starship uses precisely cut steel and liquid methane to combat heat.

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The future of steel in space

  2. 2. SpaceX is a company that is shrouded in secrecy. Not much is known for sure about what the space-faring start up company is up to, beyond the occasional wide-eyed declarations of its founder Elon Musk. However, a new clue has surfaced about how SpaceX’s latest venture will be using steel in a revolutionary new way.
  3. 3. TO BOLDLY GO… When an object enters the Earth’s atmosphere at extreme speed, such as a spaceship travelling at just under thirty thousand kilometres an hour, it meets atmospheric gases such as oxygen, which is then super-compressed and converted into plasma. To an observer it looks like the nose of the ship is on fire, but it’s technically a combination of plasma and eroded steel that is being seen trailing away from the craft.
  4. 4. NASA Regular space craft, such as the Space Shuttle built by NASA, undergo a process called ablation, where the nose of the craft is damaged upon re-entry. Imagine it like how a flood will erode the banks of a river, with the surface being worn away by the elements.
  5. 5. THE HEAT IS ON One of the ultimate aims of SpaceX is to make interplanetary travel between Earth and Mars a reality and having repair crews on Mars would be a financial and logistical nightmare. So, a design that can repeatedly handle the structural trauma of atmospheric re-entry is needed.
  6. 6. SPACEX The SpaceX effort is a completely window-less design, with a distinctive stainless-steel coating all the way around from nose to tail. The overall ideas is for it to resemble liquid silver.
  7. 7. It uses a precisely cut steel, in the shape of interlocking hexagons, that has incredibly small holes drilled into its surface. These holes are designed to funnel out microscopic doses of liquid methane, which would then instantaneously convert to gas and plasma as it meets the intense heat to keep the overall structure intact.
  8. 8. WWW.SHAPECUT.COM.AU 1800 ShapeCUT (1800 742 732)