Decatur, AL, 28 March 2018. RUAG Space, a leading product supplier to the space industry, officially began production of payload fairings in its Alabama facility today after successful completion of the manufacturing readiness review.
It took less than 15 months from move in date of RUAG into its location on the United Launch Alliance campus, to go from empty space, to 135,000 square feet of production facility. The Decatur site now holds over 50 U.S. employees, for the manufacturing of large composite structures such as payload fairings, interstage adapters and other future opportunities.
Starting today, workers will shift from facility setup, to actual production, as they begin the layup and bonding process of a U.S. 5 meter payload fairing demonstrator. The state of the art facility will utilize an industrial Out of Autoclave oven to cure the large composite structures, in a process that has already been proven successful and space rated on Ariane 5 and Vega launches last year.
This Out of Autoclave process allows the massive carbon fiber components – which constitute one half shell of the payload fairing- to be economically produced in one piece. The ambient pressure of the oven hardens the composite structures, as opposed to the autoclave process of excess internal pressure and allows RUAG to cure entire half-shell pieces at a time, eliminating costly and time consuming vertical integration of numerous shell elements. The full process reduces throughput time by 50%, and enables RUAG to increase the delivery volume and sequence for payload fairings.
Other processes that will be utilized in the Decatur facility, such as laser-assisted layering, the completely automatic nondestructive testing, and the ergonomic horizontal integration station all contribute to the leaner, faster, better process that RUAG Space can offer customers.
“All of the successes that have led to this major milestone, are a testament to the hard work and determination of our workforce,” said David Rowe, General Manager of RUAG’s Decatur Facility. “This is a critical moment for RUAG Space in the U.S.market. We are now fully capable of offering launcher composite structures made in the U.S., by an American workforce.”
Currently, the facility will operate on one shift only, with room for growth as the U.S. customer base continues to grow. The next major milestone on the U.S. PLF will occur when the demonstrator has been fully cured in Out of Autoclave oven, and will then move on to machining and integration. Following the build and testing of this first demonstrator, the facility will begin the production of fairings for ULA’s Atlas V
About RUAG Space
RUAG Space is the leading supplier to the space industry in Europe, with a growing presence in the United States. With close to 1,400 staff across six countries, it develops and manufactures products for satellites and launch vehicles – playing a key role both in the institutional and commercial space market. Its portfolio comprises electronics for satellites and launchers, mechanical and thermal products for satellites, as well as launcher structures and separation systems. RUAG Space is a division of the international technology Group RUAG, with headquarters in Switzerland.