We are now entering the tail-end of a historic year that has presented countless challenges and opportunities for businesses the world over. It has been particularly pertinent to the global team at H.C. Starck Solutions as we entered 2020 in a reflective mood; looking back on 100 years of success in some of the most demanding refractory metals markets on – and off – the globe.

On the 13th September 1959, the Soviet Union’s Luna 2 was the first manmade object to touch down on the moon’s surface. We thought that September was the perfect month to spotlight our significant contributions to mankind’s spacefaring endeavours, beginning with our enhanced refractory metals output at Euclid, Ohio.

The 1950s: H.C. Starck Solutions Enters the Space Race

In the nineteen fifties, US President John F. Kennedy launched the momentous initiative to put a man on the moon. This was a pivotal moment in the Space Race between East and West. But the end-result of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin taking those first small steps on the surface of the moon was far from an inevitability at the time Kennedy’s programme was initiated. It took an enormous industrial effort to realise, and it presented unique opportunities for industrious companies in the states.

It was this initiative that motivated plant operators at Euclid, Ohio to establish refractory metals flat-rolling capabilities, relying on a steady supply of molybdenum and tungsten from their sister plant in Coldwater, Michigan. With just a four-hour drive between the two, this rapid supply chain enabled Euclid to develop unparalleled expertise in rolling flat refractory metals products with several specialised rolling mills. Various products were developed to support different space programs, including heat and radiation shielding components.

Later in the decade – around 1957, development work reduction processes to optimise niobium and tantalum production was undertaken at the National Research Corporation (NRC) at Newton, Massachusetts. The NRC entered the H.C. Starck fold in 1975, but during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, it employed cutting edge electron beam and arc melting processes to functionalize various niobium and tantalum products for aerospace applications.

Refractory Metals Solutions for Today’s Space Programs

Private space programs have revitalised a global interest in aerospace engineering while simultaneously pushing the frontiers of space exploration. H.C. Starck Solutions is still heavily invested in supporting these concerted efforts to explore our solar system. Our refractory metals products continue to enable space applications around the world, from our traditional high voltage capacitor tantalum powers (Q-powders) to C103 niobium alloys.

Our highly-engineered refractories support cutting-edge megatrends that rely on aerospace-grade materials, such as internet of things (IoT) connectivity, enhanced global telecommunications, transportation, control of climate change, and much more.

Today, the Newton plant outputs C103 niobium alloy sheets and rods for use in second stage rocket nozzles and space engines. Wires and powders derived from the same refractory metal alloy are used as feedstocks in advanced additive manufacturing for rapid prototypes of complex, single-piece engineered rocket engine components. We also generate tantalum and tungsten foils for radiation shielding for microchips and re-entry vehicles, while complex refractory metals alloys are employed for a wide range of niche applications critical to successful space missions.

Check our 100 Years of Refractory Metals Expertise page for more details about our centennial celebration. Or, if you would like to speak with a salesperson about our aerospace solutions, simply contact us today.