Original Date: 04/26/1999
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Composite Structures Manufacturing
Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) has a long and rich history as NASA’s leader in large space hardware manufacturing. Around 1983, the Center established the Productivity Enhancement Complex (PEC) as a full-scale manufacturing environment for developing and qualifying automated manufacturing processes and materials to meet future requirements and launch schedules. The PEC began as a single research cell, and has evolved into nearly 50 dedicated research areas located throughout the Huntsville complex. Since the 1980s, the Center has also developed and produced various composite components for the space program, and is recognized as a national leader in this field. The Center offers outstanding resources, expertise, and capabilities to produce a wide range of shapes and sizes of composite components. Because of these attributes and its unique, cooperative working relationships with industry, MSFC is approached by many contractors to develop and demonstrate the feasibility of using composite components in their programs.
The industrial infrastructure for composite manufacturing, however, is slowly evolving throughout the Nation due to the high costs and risks associated with qualifying new materials for spaceflight. This situation, along with a small market for large composite components, have caused MSFC to become even more self-sufficient in this field. The continued investment in composite materials technologies at MSFC is essential, if new and advanced materials are to be utilized confidently in the next-generation space vehicle systems. NASA has already set goals to reduce costs by at least an order of magnitude. The newly developed Fastrac engine is an example of this cost reducing effort. When put into production, this engine can be delivered for approximately one-tenth the cost of a comparable engine built using yesterday’s practices and materials.
The need to find affordable and reliable access to space continues to be a vital requirement for NASA and industry so they can remain competitive in the world market. MSFC, with its unique capabilities in composite manufacturing, is devoted to the advancement of composite materials and processes. By maintaining its partnership with industry, the Center can continue to provide the technological breakthroughs necessary for the next-generation systems of space transportation, thus assuring the Nation’s continued leadership position in space technologies.
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