During the past 100 years, humans have taken to the air like never before. The aerospace industry has created some of the world’s most complex machinery and pushed technological boundaries into space. So, if you want to know more, here are some things you probably didn’t know about the aerospace industry.
1. Aerospace Industry Uses Plastic Products
The aerospace industry is known for using many materials in the construction of its aircraft, but one material you might not expect to see on a plane is plastic. Plastic components and plastics themselves play an important role throughout the life cycle of an airplane. Engineers use composites made from plastic and fiberglass instead of metals because they are lighter and stronger than the metal alloys that were traditionally used. Plastic also makes up about 50% of new car sales, as well as 40% of consumer goods used today. You will find it in everything from laptops to cell phones to your carpeting. So it becomes very apparent why engineers have chosen this versatile material as a mainstay in their designs. There are many aerospace plastic machining companies, so if you are in the industry, be sure to check it out. Plastic materials are now used in the construction of most planes, making them lighter and more fuel-efficient. Planes made of plastic are less expensive to build, buy, operate and maintain. Another significant benefit is that it can be recycled over and over again with very little loss in quality or strength.
2. NASA’s Space Shuttle is Powered by Rocket Engines
NASA has been launching its space shuttles into space from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida since 1981. To achieve the high speeds needed to break out of the Earth’s atmosphere and travel into space, these rockets use solid rocket fuel engines that provide smooth, powerful thrusts for liftoff. Solid rocket fuel engines are also used on other spacecraft as well as missiles, but they were never considered for transportation because there was no way to throttle them, once they’re lit, they burn at full power until all the fuel is gone, or it’s purposely shut down (this is why no moon landings were attempted without detaching the lunar module first). However, with advancements in technology, engineers can now control how much thrust an engine produces by throttling the amount of propellant entering it. This means that rockets will be able to be more efficient and easier to land, which is really important for future space missions.
3. Aircraft Avoid Lightning Strikes by Flying Higher or Lower
When lightning hits an airplane, the electrostatic charge of the buildup travels down the length of the aircraft into the engines and through metallic components in its structure. If this happens, it can create a spark that could ignite any fuel vapors present and cause an explosion, similar to when gasoline is lit with a match on your car’s engine block. To avoid this from happening, modern aircraft have been designed with static wicks attached to points all over their empennage (back end), such as behind flap tracks, vertical stabilizers, and even rudder trim tabs. These wicks consist of a wire mesh with a thin coating of carbon, which makes good electrical contact to the aircraft’s skin and allows the charge from lightning strikes to pass harmlessly into the air behind it. This is why you will often hear pilots say that they are going to “take the static out” after thunderstorms because these wicks become electrically charged from passing through those storms. Pilots can also avoid problems by flying high enough that there isn’t a buildup of negative charges in clouds or descending below cloud level.
4. The Stiffness of an Airplane’s Wing is Measured in Pounds
The weight of an airplane is critical to how much fuel it will burn while in flight, which is why engineers spend a lot of time trying to make them lighter without losing strength. The stiffness of the wings is also important because they must be able to stand up to high stresses during flight, especially when landing. To measure these attributes, engineers use a device called a flexural rig that can apply tremendous forces at specific points on the wing and analyze the reaction. It works by putting pressure down on one side of the wing with many weights until there’s enough force applied for the structure to deflect (bend). Then the other side is loaded with even more weights until it can no longer hold its shape or breaks apart. There are also similar devices that apply tension to the wing and determine its resistance to stretching, but it’s easier to break a wing when doing this type of test. The deflection (bending) at both sides is then measured with load cells, which can be hooked up to computers for analysis. Engineers use these measurements to create computer models of how the wings will perform under different flight conditions and while doing maneuvers such as flying in a loop or taking off and landing.
5. The Boeing 747 was Designed to be a Cruise Missile
In the mid-1960s, the US Air Force and Navy were competing to see who would get a new large airplane for long-range bombing missions, so Boeing proposed an idea to both services that they should team up and develop one aircraft that could do all the jobs required. The Air Force’s side of this collaboration was known as the Strategic Air Command, which wanted a high-speed, high-altitude bomber that could fly fast enough to elude any defensive jet fighters in the air during an attack. And there was the B-1 Lancer. However, there was also a need for a low-level raiding force capable of penetrating enemy airspace without being detected by radar and destroying fixed targets with accuracy. Enter the Navy A-12 Avenger II. To meet all these requirements, engineers designed a giant wing platform for the new airplane, with four engines located underneath it. This was done not only to support the tremendous weight of the structure but because there were concerns that high-speed airflow would separate from a wing flying at subsonic speeds if it had an engine hanging off each wingtip.
So, there are a lot of interesting things you didn’t know about the aerospace industry. Whether it’s how an airplane gets its power, the materials they are made out of, or how low it can go, there is always something new to find out in this field. Have any more questions? There are also many internet sources, so you can find some of them and research them for yourself!