View Full Version : Discussion: Spaceships Made from Plastic?

2005-Aug-29, 05:13 PM
SUMMARY: Wait, don't throw that garbage bag away. It might come in handy if you wanted to build a spaceship. At least, that's what NASA scientists working on new spacecraft materials are proposing. They've invented a new polyethylene-based material called RXF1 that's even stronger and lighter than aluminum. A plastic material like this is actually surprisingly protective against solar flares and cosmic rays since it doesn't produce "secondary radiation", like aluminum.

View full article (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/future_plastic_spaceships.html)

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

2005-Aug-29, 05:35 PM
Back a few decades ago, when we wanted to make something that was protected from background radiation for gamma ray measurements or other such things, we built a structure out of lead bricks, and inside that put a layer of copper , and inside that a layer of aluminum, and inside that a layer of plastic, so that the various types of lower-energy secondary radiation would get absorbed. I don't know how we came to this formula, but a. it seemed to work, and b. I assume that each layer came from someone previously having a problem with an experiment.

2005-Aug-30, 11:57 AM
High-Energy particles - particularly charged ones, tend to pass through the body with less dose. Slowing them down a little increases dose dramatically. Dose is deposited energy - however biological damage is not perfectly correlated with dose. It is unknown what the effects of lower dose but higher energy radiation will be.

However, if you want to block all the particles, which is prudent, you don't have to guess. If you are going to use a nuclear powered spacecraft, you are going to need that shielding anyway, and it does not have to encompass the entire spaceship to block the Sun for example. You also need allot of water and fuel for long voyages, and these are excellent shields as well.

It may be we will have to wait on long space voyages until we have magnetic charged particle shielding. Unless there is something out there worth getting to, there is no reason to do it with manned vehicles.

2005-Aug-30, 10:48 PM
Perhaps they could use RXF-1 laminated with a carbon nanotube fabric and a cermet matrix. That way you could get the heat resistance, radiation shielding, strength and the light weight needed for spacecraft skins. Just a thought.

2005-Sep-07, 07:25 PM
This is really exciting news.