Design Engineering

Alcan alloys selected for the next-gen spacecraft

By DE staff   

Materials Metal Fabrication metals space exploration

Aluminium-lithium (Al-Li) 2195 and Al-Li 2050 to be used for structural components on Orion crew exploration vehicle.

Alcan Global Aerospace Transportation and Industry  is set to become the leading supplier of advanced aluminium-lithium (Al-Li) lightweight materials for the Orion crew exploration vehicle being built by Lockheed Martin as part of NASA’s Constellation Program. Orion is being designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and other destinations, including the moon.

After a two-year materials study, which included composites, Alcan’s Low Density Alloys were chosen for the Orion crew module at NASA’s Orion Project preliminary design review in August 2009. The decision confirms that new alloys will be a key structural material in the Constellation Program, which is being designed by NASA and its contractors to replace the space shuttle for a new era of space exploration.


Al-Li alloys’ inherent low density, high-specific stiffness, strength and excellent mechanical properties are expected to offer significant weight savings and predictable cost performance.

Two alloys are base-lined to have a key role in construction of the crew module that will carry astronauts into space and return them safely to Earth.Al-Li 2195 will be used for main, load-bearing structural components called longerons. Additionally, an Al-Li alloy developed by Alcan, designated 2050, will be used for the very first time. Available in plate form, it will be used for other structural components including frames, ribs and window sections.

Shipments of 2050 plate for Orion from Ravenswood, West Virginia, began in December 2009. Shipments of 2195 alloys from the Montreuil-Juigne and Issoire plants in France will take place early 2010.


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