Welding in Space
Name: Jeff W.
What are the advantages of welding in space?
The main benefit is in the welding of chemically reactive metals such as
titanium. Heated titanium reacts with oxygen so readily that it can't be
welded in the earth's atmosphere, even using an inert gas blanket (MIG or
TIG welding). The only way to weld titanium on earth is to completely
encase it in an inert atmosphere, such as in a glove box.
The other benefit that can come from welding in space is the lack of
gravity. In some cases, it's good if the weld pool (melted metal) stays
right where it is instead of flowing under gravity. The larger the amount
of metal that is melted at the same time, the more of an issue this is. So,
in principle, welding in zero gravity would make it easier to weld thicker
pieces of metal together, especially if the weld joint has an irregular
Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois
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Update: June 2012