View Full Version : The miracle substance that could make low-cost RLVs possible

2003-Sep-24, 11:06 PM
It had to be around 1994 when I heard on Dateline about British inventor Morris Ward's homemade super-strong super-light material which he called Starbrite plastic. (At least that's the best I can remember it.) From all the hype made about the stuff, it sounds like it's the perfect material to build a reusable launch vehicle hull out of. Of course, I never heard much about it after that. But if Starbrite is as excellent as they claim, how come it's not in use? And if it's in use, how come I don't know about it? Could it be that the hole thing was a hoax? Could it be that the material was not quite as excellent as previously claimed. Could I have dreamed the whole thing? No, wait! I remember taping the Starbrite segment off the TV. But whatever the case, can someone please enlightment me on the situation if at all possible?

2003-Sep-25, 01:37 AM

Perhaps I can help you out. I have never heard of Starbrite, but I have been an engineer making composite materials for the last 15 years.

Starbrite is probably a thermoplastic. That alone makes it problomatic for composites manufacture. Most composites are made from thermoset resins becuase they can be blended with solvent to lower viscosity and allow the resin to mix with the fiber. Some thermoplastics can be dissolved in solvent, but these same plastics are not resistant to solvents. Wich makes them unsuitable for aerospace applications.

There are many othe factures such as High/Low temperature strength, "Out gassin", fiber/polymer adhesion, toughness, price, yada yada.

Obviously there is much more to it. Hope that little bit helps.


2003-Sep-25, 05:38 AM
Rule of thumb, if you heard it on Dateline, or any other newsertainment show, its entertainment, not news. Unless you hear it from a credible source, it is likely just a hoax.

2003-Sep-25, 07:08 PM
Things like that are good, however for bulletproof vests. Are you sure the plastic wasn't called Spectra?

2003-Sep-26, 09:38 PM
Maybe it was called Spectra. I'm not sure.

2003-Sep-27, 03:37 AM
If it was Spectra, it's used in body armor, rope, and sails. Probably other stuff too. The trouble with Spectra is that it decays in sunlight. You have a nice new sail at the beginning of the race season and at the end you have a lot of little plastic chips. It's also not cheap.