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Chapter 6: Materials for SpacecraftThe general knowledge in this chapter is intended for a broad variety of spacecraft: manned or unmanned, low Earth to geosynchronous orbit, cis-lunar, lunar, planetary, or deep space exploration. Materials for launch vehicles are covered in chapter 7. Materials used in the fabrication of spacecraft hardware should be selected by considering the operational requirements for the particular application and the design engineering properties of the candidate materials. The information provided in this chapter is not intended to replace an in-depth materials study but rather to make the spacecraft designer aware of the challenges for various types of materials and some lessons learned from more than 50 years of spaceflight. This chapter discusses the damaging effects of the space environment on various materials and what has been successfully used in the past or what may be used for a more robust design. The material categories covered are structural, thermal control for on-orbit and re-entry, shielding against radiation and meteoroid/space debris impact, optics, solar arrays, lubricants, seals, and adhesives. Spacecraft components not directly exposed to space must still meet certain requirements, particularly for manned spacecraft where toxicity and flammability are concerns. Requirements such as fracture control and contamination control are examined, with additional suggestions for manufacturability. It is important to remember that the actual hardware must be tested to understand the real, "as-built" performance, as it could vary from the design intent. Early material trades can overestimate benefits and underestimate costs. An example of this was using graphite/epoxy composite in the International Space Station science racks to save weight. By the time the requirements for vibration isolation, Space Shuttle frequencies, and experiment operations were included, the weight savings had evaporated.
Document ID
Document Type
Book Chapter
External Source(s)
Finckenor, Miria M.
(NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)
Date Acquired
November 10, 2016
Publication Date
August 1, 2018
Publication Information
Publication: Aerospace Materials and Applications
Publisher: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
ISBN: 9.78E+12
e-ISBN: 9.78E+12
Subject Category
Spacecraft Design, Testing And Performance
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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