Space travel has been in the news a lot the past couple of years. With Elon Musk’s SpaceX changing how we look at space exploration, it has been a much welcomed break from this year of COVID-19. How will SpaceX continue to innovate space exploration? To answer that question, let’s take a look at one of the toughest tools on any space mission...the space helmet.
Today’s space helmets are made from polycarbonate, a high-impact resistant plastic. It’s extremely strong and durable and offers good optical clarity, making it perfect for visors and screens.
Because of its outstanding toughness, polycarbonate is widely used to make skylights, machine guards, and bulletproof glass. It can even stand up to the harsh environment of outer space. It’s the ideal protection.
Space isn’t exactly empty. There’s space debris--pieces of meteoroids and other junk--floating about as well as UV and infrared rays from the sun. Space helmets need to stand up to all of that. While metal materials may be tough enough to handle being smacked with debris, metal isn’t so easy to mold to any form.
Polycarbonate, on the other hand, can be formed into any shape. Manufacturers place polycarbonate pellets into a mold. From there the pellets are superheated and melted, at which point they take the shape of the mold, in this case the space helmet. Once it’s cooled, we have the super tough and supercool space helmet.
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
Space helmets have come a long way since the bubble helmets of the 1960s. What hasn’t changed is the precision and care that goes into manufacturing each one. From the traditional NASA space helmet to the sleek and stylish designs being 3D printed by SpaceX, each helmet must utilize the best technology available and super strong plastics like polycarbonate in order to protect astronauts.