Alcoa (NYSE:AA) and aluminum helped advance space exploration another step recently when NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars following its 352-million-mile journey from Earth.
Curiosity is a car-sized, six-wheeled robot made mostly of aluminum, which makes the craft light, durable and fast. Incorporated into the assembly of Curiosity are high-strength precision aerospace fasteners manufactured by Alcoa Fastening Systems in California. Inconel 718 bolts and standard hexagon nuts produced at Alcoa’s Newbury Park facilities and Keensert Inserts manufactured at Alcoa’s Torrance plant were used in the construction of the rover.
Alcoa's high-strength fasteners connect the many structural components and attach equipment securely to the vehicle, and the threaded inserts are essential in transferring high tension and high loads into the lightweight base structure. Both the Inconel 718 bolts and hexagon nuts can withstand temperatures of up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit (650 degrees Celsius). The Inconel 718 bolts also have excellent strength properties at elevated temperatures making them ideal for spacecraft, rocket motors, and turbines.
"All Alcoans should be proud of our latest contribution to this milestone in human history,” said Alcoa Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld. “From Kitty Hawk to Mars and beyond, Alcoa solutions have helped shape every major advance in aviation. More than 90 percent of aerospace alloys in use today were invented by Alcoa, and our fasteners, forgings or other products can be found on virtually anything that flies."Alcoa Space-Age Achievements Alcoa aluminum alloys and propellants have helped make many space milestones possible, from the first manned flight and the first moon landing to the Space Shuttle and International Space Station programs. The tiny lunar module Eagle used in the U.S. Apollo space program in the 1960s was built almost completely of aluminum, offering precious weight savings. Twenty years later when the Space Shuttle Columbia made its maiden flight, Alcoa was on board with powdered aluminum fuel that helped launch the shuttle and aluminum components in the main engine’s liquid hydrogen pump.
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