ATK delivers composite crew module to NASA for Orion

The Composite Crew Module (CCM) was designed to prove the viability of composite materials in manned spacecraft and will now undergo structural testing.

Aerospace and defense manufacturer Alliant Techsystems (ATK, Minneapolis, Minn.) announced on Oct. 14 that it had delivered to NASA a full-scale crew module structure made of composite materials. Dubbed the Composite Crew Module (CCM), the unique, all-composite capsule design mimics the conventional (40-percent composite) Orion capsule design currently scheduled to fly initial missions during NASA’s pending Constellation Moon/Mars program. According to ATK, the CCM has the potential to reduce the overall weight of future manned launch vehicles.

Full-scale structural testing will be performed at NASA’s Langley Research Center to determine the strength and viability of the composite structure. During the destructive testing, the CCM will be placed under load conditions similar to those observed during launch, on-orbit, landing and abort scenarios.

Led by the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC), ATK was part of a team of NASA and industry experts who designed and fabricated the CCM to demonstrate how composite materials could be used to develop a pressurized space capsule. ATK provided composites design, analysis, manufacturing and assembly expertise for the CCM program.

“We have applied our innovative engineering and manufacturing capabilities to help the CCM team build a cutting-edge, composite space structure,” says Jack Cronin, president, ATK Mission Systems. “We demonstrated our ability to perform as a partner and deliver an advanced composite structure that’s never been built for NASA.”

Fabricated and assembled at ATK’s Iuka, Miss., facility, the CCM combines some of the most advanced composite manufacturing technologies in use today. Constructed in two primary sections, the upper and lower shells are joined together with a splice joint and cured using out-of-autoclave technology.