European Space Agency Flickr Update

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Mars in Lanzarote
02-11-2016 03:31 PM CET

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Mars in Lanzarote

ESA’s Matthias Maurer with ESA astronauts Luca Parmitano and Pedro Duque on a field trip for the Pangaea planetary geology course.

On field trips in the Mars-like landscape of Lanzarote, one of the Spanish Canary Islands, the students were tasked with interpreting geological features to understand the history of how the island formed. The goal is to help astronauts choose the best places to explore and collect rock samples.

This session put into practice a week’s training in Bressanone, Italy, last September where they learned about Earth and planetary geological processes as well as how to recognise rocks and meteorites.

The trio went on progressively difficult day trips, ending with a free exploration of the countryside searching for interesting samples while keeping in contact via radio with scientists at ‘mission control’.

Lanzarote was chosen for this course because of its geological similarity with Mars, such as a volcanic origin, mild sedimentary processes owing to a dry climate, hardly any vegetation and a well-preserved landscape.

The course took place in collaboration with the Geopark of Lanzarote, a protected area with pristine wilderness.

Credit: ESA–S. Sechi

Friction stir welding of titanium
02-11-2016 10:58 AM CET

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Friction stir welding of titanium

It’s welding, but not as we know it.

Only a bare sliver of glowing metal is visible during this ‘friction stir welding’. The result is a more robust titanium propellant tank produced more rapidly and cheaply than with traditional welding.

A rotating tool heats and softens the metal before mixing the two pieces together through mechanical pressure, like joining clay or dough. Requiring no external heat source, friction stir welding results in stronger joins.

“This type of welding is today widely used to join together aluminium components,” comments ESA metallurgist Andy Norman, “but the reliable welding of titanium demonstrated through this project is a new application for the technique.”

ESA’s Materials Technology section worked with welding specialist TWI in the UK, the original developer of the technique, as well as Airbus Defence and Space to produce a demonstration tank.

Titanium is a strong and highly resistant metal, but its very strength makes it hard to work with, requiring different pieces to be forged separately and then machined to the required thickness before being fusion-welded together. The result is resilient, but takes a long time to produce – in this case up to 12 months.

For this project, the pieces of the tank were instead cast – or set from molten metal – to near the required dimensions, requiring much less follow-up machining. It is possible to reach comparable levels of performance because friction stir welding imparts less stress to joints than standard fusion-welding.

Credit: ESA/TWI/Airbus Defence & Space

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