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Metal-matrix composites for space applications

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From the onset of the space era, both organic-matrix and metal-matrix composites (MMCs), with high specific stiffness and near-zero coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE), have been developed for space applications. Of the organic-matrix composites, graphite/epoxy (Gr/Ep) has been used in space for truss elements, bus panels, antennas, wave guides, and parabolic reflectors in the past 30 years. MMCs possess high-temperature capability, high thermal conductivity, low CTE, and high specific stiffness and strength. Those potential benefits generated optimism for MMCs for critical space system applications in the late 1980s.1,2 The purpose of this article is to detail the history, status, and opportunities of MMCs for space applications.

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Editor’s Note: A hypertext-enhanced version of this article can be found at

For more information, contact S.P. Rawal, Lockheed Martin Space Systems-Aeronautics Operations, Advanced Structures and Materials and Thermal Control Group, Denver, Colorado.

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Rawal, S.P. Metal-matrix composites for space applications. JOM 53, 14–17 (2001).

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