MAY 24, 2020 4:58 AM PDT

Here's Why SpaceX is Using Heavy Stainless Steel to Make Starship

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

SpaceX is perhaps best known for its reusable Falcon 9 rocket, the same variety that will be lofting astronauts into outer space from American soil on Wednesday for the first time since the Space Shuttle era almost a decade ago. But another of SpaceX’s projects that appears to be gaining steam is Starship, a space vehicle crafted out of shiny stainless steel that CEO Elon Musk hopes will one day play a part in interplanetary travel.

One of the questions that comes up a lot is why SpaceX chose to use stainless steel as Starship’s primary build material, as its weight-to-strength ratio leaves a lot to be desired. This is the primary reason why most modern rocketry uses some form of aluminum alloy, as it’s both lighter and cheaper to send to space. But as it turns out, the answer to that is fairly simple: temperature tolerance.

The whole idea behind Starship is to be an interplanetary vehicle, and this means that it’ll be subjected to both freezing and scorching temperatures as it ascends from and descends into planetary atmospheres, not once, but twice. As it turns out, this is where stainless steel shines, as it has a particularly good tolerance to temperature variances that many other materials simply can’t compete with.

When starship enters Mars’ incredibly thin atmosphere, it will do so in such a way that the amount of drag is increased to slow the vehicle down as it falls. With drag comes heat, and in this case, more heat than even stainless steel can handle. SpaceX aims to cool Starship’s descent with a liquid methane pump underneath the Starship’s surface, which will essentially fight back against the heat similar to how humans sweat in the heat.

As of now, the Starship prototypes aren’t much to write home about, but SpaceX intends to improve the manufacturing process as it goes to eventually build what some might call one of the most ambitious interplanetary space vehicles of its time. It should be interesting to see how this pans out…

Related: SpaceX’s Starship will be a game-changer for deep space travel

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUL 03, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Astronauts Perform CRISPR Gene Editing in Space
JUL 03, 2021
Astronauts Perform CRISPR Gene Editing in Space
NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have developed and successfully carried out a CRISPR-Cas9 p ...
JUL 26, 2021
Space & Astronomy
A Moon-Forming Disc is Observed Surrounding an Exoplanet
JUL 26, 2021
A Moon-Forming Disc is Observed Surrounding an Exoplanet
Researchers have been able to detect a disc surrounding an exoplanet called PDS 70c with the Atacama Large Millimeter/su ...
AUG 11, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Solve Jupiters 'Energy Crisis'
AUG 11, 2021
Researchers Solve Jupiters 'Energy Crisis'
Astronomers have solved Jupiter's 'Energy Crisis', a long-standing issue that has puzzled scientists for dec ...
AUG 19, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Researchers Observe the Birth of New Solar Systems
AUG 19, 2021
Researchers Observe the Birth of New Solar Systems
Astronomers are gaining new insights on how our solar system was born from observations of a nearby star-forming region ...
SEP 07, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Understanding the Formation of Ultradiffuse Galaxies
SEP 07, 2021
Understanding the Formation of Ultradiffuse Galaxies
Ultradiffuse galaxies are difficult to find because they aren't very bright since their stars are so far apart. They ...
DEC 08, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
New Study Finds Evidence of Brief Presence of Water on Mars
DEC 08, 2021
New Study Finds Evidence of Brief Presence of Water on Mars
Up north on Mars’s surface lies a region called Arabia Terra, an area with many craters and heavy erosion approxim ...
Loading Comments...