One of NASA main and more well-known program,, the Space Transportation System (STS), more commonly known as the Space Shuttle program, had its first launch in 1981 and has practiced 122 missions at an average cost of $450 million per launch, according to NASA. The cost and world-wide attention placed on every mission has placed extreme pressure on every facet and every system used for every flight.
Each shuttle that is produced for NASA is projected to have a lifespan of 100 launches or ten years of operating life. From their beginnings they STS program has been innovative in their abilities to accommodate commercial and classified satellites, astronauts, and service parts for the International Space Station. Each shuttle is manufactured with three main components: the Orbiter Vehicle, the rusted color External Tank, and two Reusable Solid Rocket Motors which propel the shuttle to space.
In 1998, through a $2.4 billion contract with ATK Thiokol, NASA extended the Reusable Solid Rocket Motors (RSRM) program for the production and refurbishment of seventy RSRMs. This addition is the sixth in a series of deals, since 1973, for the design, development, production and refurbishment of Solid Rocket Motors for the Space Shuttle Program and signifies a continued relationship between NASA’s Marshall Space Flight center in Huntsville, Ala., and ATK Thiokol. The current RSRM is one of the largest solid motor ever flown and the first developed for reuse.
In 2005, ATK Thiokol chose CDF Corporation’s 5, 12, 30, and 55 gallon drums and pail liners for the use of the first step of preparing the primer and topcoat paint for the outward portion of the RSRM hardware.
A great success for CDF Corp, their liners were chosen over competitive products after going through NASA’s rigorous testing of material and compatible superiority. “Because we work closely with NASA to build a quality product for safe space missions, we have a rigorous qualification process for the products we use within the RSRM program,” stated ATK Thiokol Program Manager Jeff Chapneys, who took a lead role in ATK-CDF Partnership. “CDF was one of few companies whose product satisfied all of the exacting RSRM requirements” he continued.
Laura Beechwood, the Chief Operating Officer of CDF stated, “CDF is proud to have been chosen as NASA’s liner supplier. It is a testament of our product quality, investment in innovative technology, and talented workforce.”
ATK Thiokol commented on CDF’s product quality stating, “Prevents transferable contamination from pail liner to paint of adhesive which may have a significant negative impact on RSRM quality and performance.”
To elevate the 4.5 million pound shuttle into orbit, there are three space shuttle main engines and the two RSRM which provide nearly 80% of the lift and enough thrust the space craft into space. Each RSRM is nearly the height of the Statue of Liberty but weights nearly three times as much. The thrust that is produced during takeoff from the three millions pounds of propellant accelerates the Space Shuttle to a speed of more than 17,000 mph within the first eight minutes of launch. Once the boosters separate from the Shuttle’s Orbiter Vehicle and lands in the ocean, the product is recovered and disassembled while the motors are returned to ATK Thiokol to begin the refurbishing process for the next NASA mission.
There are four segments that create the motor, with the forward segment holding the igniter. In the manufacturing of the motor, ATK Thiokol determined CDF Corporation’s pail liners, “Provided superior performance for a critical application.” The products integrity is ensured the great attention to quality and performance during the production, the inspection, transportation, and storage of motor components.
In addition to CDF Corporations liners being used in the preparation for primers and topcoats, CDF’s pail liners are used in the preparation for adhesive ChemLok prior to application. Champney commented stating, “For specific Reusable Solid Rocket Motor applications, CDF provided the best quality product at the most competitive price.”
The exterior hardware of the RSRM is painted to protect against corrosion and the internal area of the RSRM hardware is Chemlok coated to form a bonding surface between the steel components and the insulation. Guaranteeing the integrity, purity and maximum performance of the materials was essential to the ATK team, highlighting, “CDF’s attention to detail and focus on quality” as underwriting factor to their partnership.
Quality assurance is the key to a successful mission, from the exterior paint to solid fuel propellant, every fact of the space shuttle process must work in harmony flawlessly. ATK Thiokol and all its partners are committed to creating the most efficient products into the future.