I recently found out that the little protective rails over the toggle switches in the space shuttle were made out of titanium. I'm not sure of which alloy specifically, but probably 6AL4V (or "Grade 5"). I heard rumors that the covers for each switch cost near $800 (USD). Titanium is heavier than aluminum, so what was the reasoning for using it to make the switch covers?

All I can think of, is in the event of a crash the titanium would better protect the switches than aluminum... But I'm not sure how high that is on their list of concerns in the event of a crash, or similar event.

enter image description here

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ uhm, maybe this should go to space.se? $\endgroup$ – Federico Feb 7 '15 at 7:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just a guess but it could be related to aluminium alloys being more vulnerable to fatigue and deformation. I think modern alloys are good enough, but at the time the space shuttle was designed, I think there was a real concern for the guards starting to bend after some use. And once you have bought the necessary number of 800 dollar titanium switch guards, you'll never need to buy any 20 dollar anodized aluminium replacements. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Feb 7 '15 at 8:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why do you say titanium is heavier? Titanium has bigger density than aluminium, but has twice its strength... so pieces of titanium will be lighter for the same resistance needed. Also titanium has higer fusion temperature, so higher temperature resistance, but also vulnerable to fire. $\endgroup$ – Trebia Project. Feb 7 '15 at 12:25
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Honestly, I don't see a problem with this question here. I think that it is more on topic here than on space.se. I am asking about the actual craft (albeit, spacecraft), not about space "exploration." $\endgroup$ – Keegan Feb 7 '15 at 22:04
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I agree with Sponge Bob and feel that the space shuttle is part of "aviation" as well as "space exploration", and the question would be suitable on either site. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Feb 8 '15 at 0:11

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.