Lamborghini won’t equal Elon Musk’s feat of sending a car into space, but it will send pieces of one. Next month, the Italian automaker will send five samples of carbon fiber to the International Space Station (ISS) for testing. Lamborghini claims to be the first automaker to conduct materials science research on the ISS.
The goal of the project is to see how the five samples react to the stresses of space, Lamborghini said. Researchers will be analyzing the results with an eye toward using the materials not only in future cars, but also in medical devices. In 2017 Lamborghini signed an agreement with the Houston Methodist Research Institute to jointly research the biocompatibility of composite materials. The low weight, radio transparency, and radio compatibility of these materials could make them useful in prosthetics and subcutaneous devices, according to Lamborghini.
The samples were developed at Lamborghini’s own materials lab, located at the company’s Italian headquarters. One sample is 3D printed, while another uses the “discontinuous fiber” structure first seen on the limited-edition Lamborghini Sesto Elemento in 2010, and currently used on other Lambo production cars. Other samples were made using pre-impregnated expose resin (also known as “pre-preg”) and autoclaved polymer fabric, the more common methods of carbon fiber construction used in race cars and most other current applications.
The carbon fiber samples will be on the ISS for six months. They will be subjected to temperatures ranging from minus 40 degrees to 200 degrees centigrade (minus 40 degrees to 392 degrees Fahrenheit), as well as ultraviolet radiation and gamma rays, according to Lamborghini. The samples will then be brought back to Earth for analysis by Lamborghini and the Houston Methodist Research Institute. Researchers will be looking for any degradation from exposure to the harsh space environment. Lamborghini claims this will help it develop materials for future cars. The automaker has come up with some interesting ideas recently, such as using the skin of a car to store electricity, but promising lab results don’t automatically equal commercial feasibility.
A Northrop Grumman Antares rocket carrying Lamborghini’s samples is scheduled to launch from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on November 2. Back on Earth, Lambo is prepping its latest supercar, and recent reports indicate it may launch a four-door electric car as well.
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