NASA engineers are celebrating National Manufacturing Day by building some of the largest composite rocket parts ever made. Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, are preparing a new automated fiber placement robot for action. Advanced manufacturing and composites are technology areas that are critical to NASA missions in exploration, science and aeronautics.
The robot can manufacture parts several ways including using large forms, such as the one in the foreground of this photo. This robotic equipment offers high speed and precision for composites manufacturing that equals lower cost and better quality. The system is significantly faster than traditional systems.
Engineers want to determine if huge rocket parts can be made with composites because composite parts are often lighter than metal parts. In the near-term, work is focused on affordable lightweight structures for future configurations of the evolved Space Launch System and on super-lightweight structures for spacecraft for our journey to Mars.
If the weight of rockets can be reduced, they can carry more people or science equiptment to space. Large parts will be built at the Marshall Composites Technology Center and tested at nearby Marshall test facilities. This project is part of NASA’s Technology Demonstration Missions in the Space Technology Mission Directorate, which seeks to develop innovative technologies to make space travel more affordable. Advanced manufacturing and composites technologies are exciting the next generation of engineers. This capability is part of NASA’s engineering strategy to retool engineering giving the next generation the best tools and capabilities to work with and inspire scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to work on hard and important problems that not only benefit space explorers but also solve difficult technical problems on Earth.