One of the most exciting, uplifting things to come out of the first half of 2020 was the successful SpaceX launch and the return of the capsule and the astronauts to Earth. Did you watch it? The engineering feat to accomplish this was years in the making, and plastics played a big role.
Millions of precise calculations are done to get a shuttle into orbit. Many calculations are dependent on the weight of the shuttle so the lighter they can make the shuttle components and cargo, the more cost-effective it is to launch a rocket and the more critical supplies they can transport into space.
Astronaut Gear: Plastics are used in the gear worn by astronauts, for example, the Astronauts on Apollo missions wore sun visors made from high-temperature polysulfone plastic and an inner visor made of ultraviolet stabilized polycarbonate plastics.
Plastic replacing metal: Many things that may be more traditionally made of metal, ceramic, or other materials on earth are often made of lightweight materials like plastic in space. This includes things like food storage, plates and cutlery, tubing, seals, flooring, seating, and control panel instruments. Plastic coating can even be applied to windows and other materials to make them more durable and scratch-resistant.
Recycling plastics using 3D printer: The International Space Station is also using thermoplastics for use in their Made in Space (MIS) Recycler. They can take used plastic waste or broken plastic parts on the Space Station and melt them for use in the 3D printer so they can make the replacement parts and tools that they need in the station.
Not all plastics used in space launches and space travel are thermoplastics, but it’s so exciting to see all the innovative materials being used to make space exploration a reality for humankind. The future holds so much possibility for using thermoplastics in space and we’re excited to see what that future will look like in the years to come.
If you’re creating an out-of-this-world application for use on plant earth (or beyond), talk to our team who can help you pick the right earth-ready thermoplastic best suited for your next part or project.