Stainless steel ready for lift-off
Stainless steel enjoys a new boost of recognition, proving itself to be a material of the future
Elon Musk is making headlines again. Well, that’s hardly news, except for one shiny, hard-to-miss detail – the stainless steel he’s using on his latest rocket design. This robust, wear-resistant material is once again turning heads, as it hasn’t been used in spacecraft construction for over 50 years. It marks a last-minute switch by Musk from the carbon-fiber body originally planned for the rocket. A recently tweeted picture shows a gleaming SpaceX rocket prototype that has an almost throw-back, “retro” feel to it. But stainless steel isn’t stuck in the past: Most people agree that this tried-and-tested material is going places.
Back to the future with stainless steel
Is stainless steel a surprising choice for the rocket of the future? An easy question to answer for thyssenkrupp Materials Services. The answer: Not at all! Its excellent properties and versatility make stainless steel unbeatable for a wide variety of applications – even in the most out-of-this-world conditions.
It is important to mention that low temperatures even increase the strength of the light stainless steel sheets and that austenitic stainless chromium-nickel steels are among the few materials that can be used up to 0 K. Most other materials would require thicker sheets to provide the same load capacity. However, these would make the rocket heavier. Stainless steel therefore has a better breaking strength. A further advantage compared to other materials such as carbon fibre is the cost saving. Not only does stainless steel cost significantly less, it also generates less waste and is easier to process.
Traditional stainless steel is moving with the times
We aren’t cladding rocket ships (yet!) at thyssenkrupp Materials Services, but we have been supplying customers with wear-resistant stainless steel for decades – for use in everything from heavy-duty production equipment to kitchen appliances. Our stainless steels of the V2A family, e.g. the well-known materials 1.4301 and 1.4307, are the most versatile and widely used types of stainless steel on the market.
Our thyssenkrupp Materials Services centers in Eastern and Western Europe and North America take care of our stainless steel sales. Our Italian subsidiary Acciai Speciali Terni, on the other hand, produces tons of stainless steel coils in its plants and delivers them all over the world.
So, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the developments of the SpaceX rocket, because we’ve known for some time that stainless steel is ready to reach for the stars!