• June 21, 2023

Superalloys That Help Solve Corrosion Challenges in Space Exploration

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We’re all familiar with corrosion—let the steel frame of your ’64 falcon sit on blocks for too many years and your classic car will turn red with rust. The old pipes of your old house corrode over time until the drip under the sink turns into a deluge. Your grandmother’s jewelry doesn’t shine like it did in those yellowing wedding pictures.

You might think the desolate vacuum of outer space would save spacecraft from the fate of your family heirlooms, but far from it. Exposure to atomic oxygen and other highly reactive particles and high-energy radiation can cause rapid corrosion of metal parts in space. Exposure to magnetic fields can accelerate corrosion by inducing current flow in the metal through a process called magnetic induction corrosion.

Fortunately, not all metals corrode at the same rate in space, and nickel-based superalloys can be used to make aerospace parts that are built to stand up to the harsh, extreme environments in outer space. Superalloys are high-performance materials known for strength, durability, and resistance to high-temperature and extreme environments. The same properties that make them durable enough for aerospace applications make them equally tough when it comes to machining them. JR Machine specializes in taming these workhorse materials so their durability and toughness can be properly applied to spacecraft. Two of JR Machine’s raw-material specialties—Inconel and Monel— are particularly useful for aerospace applications.

Inconel Resists Corrosion

Inconel is a family of nickel-chromium superalloys that are known for their high strength, durability, and resistance to corrosion and oxidation at the extreme high and low temperatures of space. Inconel is often used in space applications such as rocket engines, turbine blades, and exhaust systems due to its ability to withstand high-temperature environments and exposure to corrosive gases.

Monel Resists Corrosive Substances

Monel is a nickel-copper alloy that is also known for its high resistance to corrosion, particularly in marine environments. Monel is used in space applications such as valves, fittings, and electrical connectors due to its ability to withstand exposure to the space environment and resist corrosion from saltwater and other corrosive substances.

Hastelloy Takes the Heat

Another material that can stand the heat of takeoff and the harshness of space is Hastelloy—a nickel-chromium-iron-molybdenum superalloy prized for it’s high-temp strength and resistance to oxidation. Once machined parts made of Hastelloy make it off the line at JR Machine, they’re put to use for spacecraft applications like rocket engines, heat exchangers, and combustion engines.

If you have any questions about machining superalloys or how we work with these materials to make parts for space exploration, please let us know.


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