FiberSIM Software Reduces Time “From Art to Part” on SpaceX Spacecraft

09 October 2009

SpaceX uses FiberSIM composites engineering software to eliminate manual fibre placement and to enhance part accuracy and product quality for its Dragon spacecraft

Vistagy have recently supplied Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) its FiberSIM software, which it hopes will reduce the design time and enhance the efficiency of the composites development process for the up-and-coming Dragon spacecraft.

The FiberSIM software is being used to develop production fibre placement diagrams and laser projection files. It will be used to assist with actual fibre placement for the spacecraft’s thermal protection system, including the heat shield, exterior panels and insulating layers on the rocket and spacecraft, and several panels around the engines.

The software is used from the outset on all new composites projects and, according to Vistagy, has enabled SpaceX to reduce the design-to-manufacturing time on composite parts, such as the 5 meter fairing boattail panel, from seven to two days.

“Time is always of the essence so FiberSIM’s proven ability to take us from art to part so rapidly was a critical consideration in our decision to purchase the software,” said Chris Thompson, vice president of structures engineering for SpaceX. “But it is about more than just speed. “FiberSIM improves product quality by providing accurate engineering information to the manufacturing floor, which also helps the repeatability of the manufacturing process. This assures that parts fit when they come off the tool. It also provides a great tie-in with our laser projection system,” Thompson added.

“We’re pleased to partner with SpaceX to apply FiberSIM to cutting-edge composite design and manufacturing techniques for space travel,” said John O’Connor, VISTAGY’s director of product and market strategy for space. “Working together we can help SpaceX achieve its objectives of reducing the cost and enhancing the reliability of space access by improving the efficiency and productivity of the overall composites development process.”

NASA has selected the Dragon spacecraft in conjunction with the Falcon 9 launch vehicle to provide transportation of cargo and potentially crew to the International Space Station and other low Earth orbit destinations.

SpaceX is targeting late 2009 for the inaugural launch of Falcon 9.

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