From aero to space - adapting aerospace technology to meet outer space demands

PUBLISHED: 10 Oct 13

Fine Tubes supply SOLAR ORBITER project (photo: © ASTRIUM)
Fine Tubes supply SOLAR ORBITER project (photo: © ASTRIUM)

Within the aerospace industry, the pressure is always on to develop new materials that can meet the demands for higher performance at reduced weight - for a lower cost. For space applications, those demands are even greater.

The main alloy used is still titanium due to its strength-to-weight ratio. For space applications, Fine Tubes has been using seamless titanium tubes (Ti3/2.5V) - the 'work horse' aerospace material although our expertise has been used to develop higher strength-to-weight titanium alloys whilst retaining essential cold workability.

Titanium is not the only alloy used, however. For the SABRE (Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine), developed by Reaction Engines to power aircraft directly into space, Nickel alloy 718 was the chosen material.

Alloy 36 is another material with promising space potential. With its improved expansion characteristics over a large temperature range, it has been used in the development of satellite waveguides for the microwave transmission of radio signals.

In the area of materials, the technology transfer is still primarily in one direction from aerospace to space.

Fine Tubes supply SOLAR ORBITER project
The Solar Orbiter satellite is due to launch in 2017 and will perform close-up observations of the sun. During its seven-year mission, the satellite will experience levels of sunlight thirteen times higher than those orbiting the Earth.

The Solar Orbiter will be the first satellite to give us close-up views of the sun's polar regions, which are very difficult to see form Earth. At the same time, it will also gather images of solar storms as they build over extended periods and deliver data from the side of the sun not visible from Earth.

These close quarters mean the Solar Orbiter requires huge resistance to the harsh environment and extreme temperatures. Fine Tubes was selected as supplier for the high quality seamless titanium tubing required for the CPS because the company is able to adapt existing technology to meet the exacting requirements of space: cleanliness, survivability in a hostile environment, and zero maintenance.

"OHB Sweden, a subsidiary of the European space and technology group OHB, has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Astrium as contractor for the Chemical Propulsion System (CPS) for the Solar Orbiter mission, planned to be launched in 2017. The satellite will perform close-up observations of the Sun, and during its 7 year mission, will experience levels of sunlight thirteen times higher than satellites orbiting the Earth. Fine Tubes were selected as supplier for the high quality seamless titanium tubing required to fulfil the exacting requirements of high quality and cleanliness levels needed for the Chemical Propulsion System." Steve Ashton, Product Assurance Manager, OHB-Sweden

Further details on Solar Orbiter:

Fine Tubes Limited, UK
Tel: + 44 1752 876416

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