Materials Science

Why are composites used in aerospace engineering unique?
Answered by Patrick Pattamanuch
  • Patrick Pattamanuch

    Patrick Pattamanuch

  1. Patrick Pattamanuch Materials and Processes Engineer, Boeing Satellite Systems
    In aerospace, cost is often driven by weight.  Some have estimated that to launch a satellite can cost around $10,000 per pound.  Composites are significantly lighter than the most popular structural metal used in aerospace — aluminum.  Therefore using composites means lighter structures and more room for other things like larger solar arrays, more instrumentation, etc.  Composites also offer better stiffness than aluminum.  Even though composites are much more expensive than aluminum to make, it is often worth the weight trade-off.  Polymers would not be used in structural aerospace applications because they are simply too weak to handle aerospace vehicle loads.

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