Boeing selects new contractor for CST-100 hatch
Boeing has selected a new subcontractor to develop eight parts for the CST-100 space capsule as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP), which outsources to private companies to return American astronauts into space after the retirement of the Space Shuttle. D-J Engineering will manufacture the hatch and the hatch frame, as well as frangible joints, which enable stages of the rocket to separate safely.
Boeing has a long history with NASA. The aerospace giant manufactured the first stage of the giant Saturn V rocket that propelled American astronauts to the Moon. Boeing also provided the 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), and in 1996 bought all of Rockwell International’s aerospace assets, including the Space Shuttle orbiter. At that time, Boeing and Lockheed Martin formed the United Space Alliance (USA), which remained NASA’s partner in day-to-day operations of the Space Shuttle until the end of the program in 2011. In collaboration with Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing has been working on the CST-100 since 2010, and in September 2014 was awarded the majority contract, along with SpaceX, to fly astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
D-J Engineering is no stranger to rocket programs either. Based in Augusta, Kansas, D-J is a manufacturer of machine parts, composites, sheet metal fabrication, large assemblies, composites assemblies, extrusions, various types of hot forming, and reverse engineering to support the aerospace and defense Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM). It also runs a certified FAA repair station.
Previously, D-J has worked on United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV rocket as well as NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS)—also a Boeing project—and this work led to the company’s contract for the CST-100.
Ryan Hernandez, D-J’s vice president of engineering and technology, said, “It definitely all started with Delta.”
In addition to its history with rocket programs, D-J has worked on numerous projects throughout the aerospace industry, including the outboard strut for the B-52 bomber, the smoker oil tank assembly for the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels, the Cabin Auxiliary Fuel Tank (CAFT) assembly for Lockheed’s C-130 aircraft and the radome repair for the same aircraft. Significant to its work on the CST-100, D-J constructed the crew entry door for Boeing’s KC-135, which involved twenty subassemblies, as well as the spoiler—a device which reduces lift.
D-J was founded by two Boeing engineers in 1992. Later, it was sold to Rezaul Chowdhury. Today the company has operations in Augusta and Conway Springs. It also operates manufacturing facilities in the Philippines and Newfoundland, Canada.
Boeing’s CST-100 is a space capsule designed to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station and to Bigelow’s planned space station. It can accommodate up to seven passengers or a mix of crew and cargo. Although it resembles the Apollo spacecraft of the 1960s and 1970s, the CST-100 uses an innovative weldless design and advanced electronics including LED sky-lighting, wireless internet, and tablet technology. The CST-100 is designed to be launched by Atlas V rockets. Its first crewed flight is planned for 2017.
NASA administrator and former astronaut Charlie Bolden told a press conference in January, “I don’t ever want to have to write another check to Roscosmos after 2017.”
Collin R. Skocik has been captivated by space flight since the maiden flight of space shuttle Columbia in April of 1981. He frequently attends events hosted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, and has met many astronauts in his experiences at Kennedy Space Center. He is a prolific author of science fiction as well as science and space-related articles. In addition to the Voyage Into the Unknown series, he has also written the short story collection The Future Lives!, the science fiction novel Dreams of the Stars, and the disaster novel The Sunburst Fire. His first print sale was Asteroid Eternia in Encounters magazine. When he is not writing, he provides closed-captioning for the hearing impaired. He lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida.