Materials

So what kinds of material are used to satisfy the demanding requirements related to having a robust structure, but nevertheless one that is of low mass? A material that is commonly used in spacecraft construction currently is aluminium honeycomb panel. It is composed of a sheet of aluminium honeycomb, bonded between two thin sheets (skins) of aluminium, as shown in Figure 9.19. The honeycomb is basically identical to bees'

Figure 9.19: Aluminium honeycomb panel is a commonly used material in spacecraft manufacture. Thin aluminium skins are bonded onto a sandwich filling of aluminium honeycomb, making a very light, stiff panel.

Figure 9.19: Aluminium honeycomb panel is a commonly used material in spacecraft manufacture. Thin aluminium skins are bonded onto a sandwich filling of aluminium honeycomb, making a very light, stiff panel.

Adhesive layer

Adhesive layer

Figure 9.20: An example of a spacecraft structure, based on the Eurostar® configuration. The figure shows the central box-like structure, made up of a number of honeycomb panels. The thrust cone is the housing for the spacecraft's primary propulsion, and is also the position of the interface with the launch vehicle. (Images courtesy of EADS Astrium.)

Figure 9.20: An example of a spacecraft structure, based on the Eurostar® configuration. The figure shows the central box-like structure, made up of a number of honeycomb panels. The thrust cone is the housing for the spacecraft's primary propulsion, and is also the position of the interface with the launch vehicle. (Images courtesy of EADS Astrium.)

honeycomb, but made of aluminium. A sheet of this seems fragile and floppy when handled, and can be easily crushed with a pair of pliers. However, when the aluminium skins are glued either side, making a honeycomb sandwich, the resulting panel material is very light and stiff, providing an ideal material for spacecraft manufacture.

An example of the use of this material is given in Figure 9.20, which shows the basic structure of the central box-like body of a communications satellite. The central thrust cone is the housing for the spacecraft's primary propulsion system, and also the location of the interface with the launcher. As such, this element takes most of the loads during the launch and when the main rocket engine is fired on orbit.

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