29 March 2018 Reviews

Materials and Processes for Spacecraft and High Reliability Applications

This massive tome, a veritable doorstop of a book, is a revised version of ‘Metallurgical Assessment of Spacecraft Parts, Materials and Processes’, which was published in 1997. According to its preface, the book has “become more voluminous [in response to] huge advances made during the past 20 years…unforeseeable when the former book was written” – which is a good reason for an update.

The eight-page contents list and numbered subsections testify to the academic complexity of the book, which has eight chapters, 11 appendices, a glossary, reference section and a 13-page double-column index. The main sections include ‘requirement for spacecraft materials’, ‘product assurance’, ‘spacecraft manufacturing’, ‘metallography’, ‘failure analysis’ and ‘assessment of post-flight materials’.

As far as illustrations are concerned, engineering problems related to spacecraft hardware in the space environment are “highlighted by over 500 illustrations including micrographs and fractographs”. The big surprise, for such a technical book, is how well illustrated it is, many of the photographs being in colour.

One of the major sections is on “The Problem of Whisker Growth”, which became a serious practical issue for commercial spacecraft around the turn of the century. Spacecraft micro-components and ICs made using tin are prone to the growth of fibre-like crystals, known as ‘tin whiskers’, and lead to short circuits in electronic equipment…and thus failures and insurance claims!

“The objective of this book”, according to its blurb, “is to assist scientists and engineers select the ideal material or manufacturing process for particular applications…from light-weight structures to electronic hardware”. In doing so, it presents more than 100 case studies and failure investigations from the space sector and looks at examples of space hardware captured by astronauts and returned to Earth. As a result, it represents a key resource for spacecraft mechanical, structures and reliability engineers, as well as their counterparts in the wider aerospace community.

Mark Williamson, Space Technology Consultant

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