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The Metals and Manufacturing Processes That Make Aerospace Research And Exploration Possible

The Metals and Manufacturing Processes That Make Aerospace Research And Exploration Possible

Oct 20th 2020

Space exploration is a buzzworthy topic, with up to 72% of Americans saying "it is essential the U.S. continue to be a world leader in space exploration" and 80% describing the space station as "a good investment for the country," according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

While many of us may get a bit starry-eyed while thinking about rocket launches, bulky spacesuits, and astronauts floating around spaceships, very few of us know about the vital operations that make space travel possible. One of these vital operations is metalworking.

Metalworking and aerospace manufacturing must take place in order for flights and launches to take place. Here are some of the essential processes and materials that allow space flight to happen.

Metal Forming And Metal Alloys

For decades, the bulk of aircraft and spacecraft were made out of aluminum. The material was lauded as durable and inexpensive, according to Composites Manufacturing (CM) magazine. Today, however, that is impractical. Now, there are comparable materials that are even lighter and priced even more economically. For those reasons, "a typical jet built today is as little as 20% pure aluminum," Aerospace Specialist Michael Standridge tells Aerospace Manufacturing and Design.

If these structures are no longer made primarily out of aluminum, what materials make up the inner and outer parts of spacecraft? Lightweight, heat-resistant metal alloys and compositions are today's favored materials. Titanium alloys and nickel alloys, for example, stand up to temperatures as high as 3,800 degrees Fahrenheit, making them optimal for space travel.

Carbon fiber is a lightweight, fuel-efficient alternative. Currently, the wings of new Airbus planes are up to 50% carbon fiber. Engineers are experimenting with applications beyond our atmosphere, or for spacecraft.

Metalworking Fluids And Cutting Fluids

What does Castrol cutting fluid have to do with the space industry? Again, metalworking makes aerospace exploration possible and it is responsible for the production of many of the parts that ultimately end up in spacecraft. Manufacturers may use Castrol cutting fluid or other brands of cutting fluid in the process of creating strong metal alloys.

"Cutting in nickel- and chromium-based alloys, in particular, produces extremely high temperatures that require a cutting fluid to dissipate the heat," Modern Machine Shop (MMS) magazine writes. Similarly, cutting fluid is absolutely necessary when cutting and working with titanium as well.

Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles are heavily factoring into the manufacturing process, as they provide high electrical conductivity and unparalleled tensile strength, according to AZoNano.

Currently, nanoparticles are being used in aircraft to help prevent and safely absorb lightning strikes should they occur. Manufacturers are working on ways to use nanoparticles' electrical conductivity for rocket ships. In additional to being highly conductive, nanoparticles resist corrosion and damage on impact.

If you are fascinated by space travel or even count yourself among the 63% of millennials interested in taking part in space tourism (also according to Pew Research), you have metalworkers to thank for making it a reality. Metalworking and metalworking fluids, like Castrol cutting fluid, are behind all large industrial production and manufacturing, including manufacturing responsible for spacecraft and spacecraft parts.