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Aerospace Composites: Making the Mars Mission Possible

Aerospace manufacturers research and develop the most efficient and effective methods to produce mission-critical, innovative technologies. In most cases, traditional forms of manufacturing must be reevaluated and improved to meet application requirements. This has created an influx in demand for high-quality composites that include advanced fibers and high-end resin formulations. A portion of the aerospace industry has been focused on landing a team on the surface of Mars by 2020, and composites are helping to turn this plan into a reality.

The properties of these advanced materials make them a viable option to reduce weight, improve strength, and endure the harsh temperatures of launching, travelling through space, and re-entry to Mars. Manufacturers are looking to carbon fiber as a solution to many of these challenges.

Composite Properties That Benefit Aerospace Engineers

Choosing the most efficient material is a critical question that aerospace engineers must confront. Understanding the properties and limitations of materials is essential to the development of the spacecraft as well as the safety of the flight crew. For this reason, composites are playing a major role in the mission to Mars because these advanced materials can be formulated and designed for application-specific requirements. The superior durability, high tolerance of temperatures, weight reduction, and corrosion resistance make advanced composites the solution to producing innovative technologies.

Aerospace Technology Utilizing Carbon Fiber

One of the most common advanced fibers found in most aerospace composites is carbon fiber. Manufacturers choose to utilize carbon fiber as a replacement for heavier, traditional materials when weight and structural integrity take precedence. Carbon fiber components can make a large impact on the amount of fuel consumed during flight by reducing the craft’s weight dramatically. Weight distribution is a key aspect of the Mars mission that most aerospace engineers base their designs. If less fuel is required to successfully travel to Mars then more space in the craft can be dedicated to other supplies. 

Advanced carbon fiber composites are being used to construct a large portion of the spacecraft as well as the fuel tanks. Carbon fiber moldings require a high-end resin formulation to ensure a strong resistance to chemical and environmental corrosion, and the ability to withstand extreme pressure variations. 

New Aerospace Applications for Composites

Beside the structure of the spacecraft and the fuel tanks, advanced composite materials are being used in new aerospace applications. For example, advanced carbon fiber composites are being implemented into the design of Mars mission suit. Engineers are utilizing composites to manufacture the hard upper torso (HUT) assembly that helps the flight crew maintain a safe body pressure both in space and on mars. Carbon fiber prepregs cultivate a strong structural integrity while reducing the weight of the assembly. Also, a newly designed Mars rover has been unveiled and it is completely comprised of carbon fiber and aluminum. Although this concept may never be sent to Mars, aspects of it will be implemented into the actual rover that astronauts will be driving. 

The Mars mission will not only be a major stepping stone for humankind, but also for advanced composites. Engineers are implementing advanced composite designs to the spacecraft to reduce weight, ensure strong integrity, as well as improve fuel efficiency. As researchers continue to study the properties and limitations of composites, we can expect to see many more designs to include these advanced materials. 

For more information on the materials that benefit aerospace manufacturers, contact our team at Composites One. Composites One is the leading supplier of composite and high performance materials in North America. Contact our team of technical sales representatives to learn more about the composite materials available to you, or fill out the contact form on our website.