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Materials for Space

Assistance in selection of materials for space applications

Selecting materials for a spacecraft needs to consider that space differs strongly from earth. Already vacuum itself rules out many materials being in use on ground: fluids evaporate, polymers generally outgas which may impose contaminations. Materials are degraded by radiation and atomic oxygen (polymers may become brittle and break). Metallic alloys need to be corrosion resistant due to the long manufacturing times of a spacecraft on ground. Most of the common metallic alloys are subject to cold welding under vibrations. Another strange effect, is that even fibre reinforced polymers (CFRPs) show contraction in fibre direction when loosing water in space (see CME). Hence, selection of material cannot be extrapolated from terrestrial approaches.

AAC may assist you in your selection of candidate materials with our experience on general requirements for space and data on materials. For example, first critical properties are outgassing (for polymers) and Stress Corrosion cracking (SCC) for metallic alloys. Following several ESA-projects, AAC has also gained expertise in developing of the Requirement Specification Documents (RSD) on a wide range of applications. This RSD lists the effects that are imposed to materials when operating in space together with the requirements on properties of the materials.

Starting with a joint analysis of your application, the RSD will be elaborated. AAC then can then assist in deriving the verification campaign out of this RSD in view of the materials. Finally, AAC offers to run tests and characterisations on materials and components in-house, but also offers to act as a “one-stop-shop” for complete test campaigns.

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Our team will analyze your situation and recommend a suitable procedure