In Space, Nobody Can Hear You Weld Steel Perfectly

One of the great things about space exploration is that it gives us more insight into how the world around us works. While a regular space mission can be about upgrading a telescope or collecting specimens, sometimes unexpected steel fabrication discoveries are made along the way.

During one routine space exploration mission the following scientific fact was discovered: if you put two identical and completely clean steel plates next to each other in space, they will weld together instantly and form a perfect seal with no machinery required. It just snaps together like two pieces of unbreakable LEGO.

It was during the Galileo space probe expedition that this fact was discovered. The metal rods that deploy the probe’s radio antenna were meant to separate during the deployment but were fused together. Analysis showed that the atoms that comprise the steel rods are constantly moving around – even just an infinitesimal amount – and when they come in contact with an identical piece of steel, the atoms can’t tell the difference and become one group of atoms. In other words, they instantly form one solid block of steel with no welding machines required.

So, why doesn’t this happen on Earth? It’s because everything around every object you can see is surrounded by oxygen, which as we know makes metal rust. That super thin layer – often imperceptible to the human eye – forms a barrier between the two surfaces and prevents the atoms from joining together. In the vast vacuum of space there’s no oxygen, so there’s no stopping this phenomenon once you leave Earth.

But why doesn’t this happen all the time? Well, typically all the metals used on spacecraft are well lubricated with oil or coated with paint or plastic or other types of materials such as heat shields. The launch of the Galileo space probe was delayed for five years on Earth, during which time the lubrication wore away, hence it getting stuck in space.

Of course, the team at ShapeCUT don’t have a fleet of spaceships to perform zero gravity steel cutting (yet) but they do have the best equipment for the job on Earth. Talk to the team at ShapeCUT today to find out more about our world-beating steel cutting services.