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Dec 25, 2018, 02:51 PM
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The return of steel

How did we end up with old fashioned stainless steel as the ideal material for making spaceships? Most of us older than millenials have lifted pieces of steel. It's very very heavy. Lions 1st encountered stainless steel on boats in the 1970's. Stainless steel became widely available in the 1930's.

Steel represents the reality of how materials engineering experiences 100 year breakthroughs followed by decades of small steps. For interplanetary colonization, we're still limited to the steam boiler technology our ancestors created. The last 100 years of carbon composites created small improvements but just weren't the generational advancement required. Old timers wondered what advancements happened since the X-33 to enable large carbon fiber tanks now & the answer was not really enough. Steel isn't ideal but it's all we have.
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