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Composites Industry News

News for February 2003


Questions Focusing on Columbia’s Wing

3rd February 2003 0 comments

Investigators trying to figure out what destroyed space shuttle Columbia focused immediately on the possibility that its thermal tiles were damaged far more seriously than NASA realized by a piece of debris during liftoff. Just a little over a minute into Columbia’s launch on Jan. 16, a chunk of insulating foam peeled away from the external fuel tank and smacked into the left wing, which like the rest of the shuttle is covered with tiles to protect the ship from the extreme heat of re-entry into the atmosphere. On Saturday, that same wing started exhibiting sensor failures and other problems 23 minutes before Columbia was scheduled to touch down. With just 16 minutes to go before landing, the shuttle disintegrated over Texas. “As we look at that now in hindsight … we can’t discount that there might be a connection,” shuttle manager Ron Dittemore said on Saturday, hours after the tragedy. “But we have to caution you and ourselves that we can’t rush to judgment on it because there are a lot of things in this business that look like the smoking gun but turn out not even to be close.” Just a day earlier, NASA had given assurances that the launch-day incident was absolutely no reason for concern. The space agency did an extensive engineering analysis that included a frame-by-frame examination of the launch video, and concluded that any damage to Columbia’s thermal tiles would be minor. If the liftoff damage was to blame, the shuttle and its crew of seven may well have been doomed from the very start of the mission. Dittemore said there was nothing that the astronauts could have done in orbit to fix damaged thermal tiles and nothing that flight controllers could have done to safely bring home a severely scarred shuttle. “My thoughts are on seven families, children, spouses, extended family. My thoughts are on their grief,” Dittemore said. And he added: “My thoughts are on what we missed, what I missed, to allow this to happen. It’s going to be a difficult day. For all of us.” The shuttle has more than 20,000 black, white or gray thermal tiles that are made of a carbon composite or silica-glass fibers and are attached to the shuttle with silicone adhesive. Loose, damaged or missing tiles can change the aerodynamics of the ship and allow heat to warp or melt the underlying aluminum airframe, causing nearby tiles to peel off in a chain reaction. If the tiles strip off in large numbers or in crucial spots, a spacecraft can overheat, break up and plunge to Earth in a shower of hot metal, much like Russia’s Mir space station did in 2001. In Columbia’s case, the shuttle broke apart while being exposed to the maximum re-entry heat of 3,000 degrees on the leading edge of the wings, while traveling at 12,500 mph, or 18 times the speed of sound. “I would say that the tiles are the No. 1 candidate” for causing the disaster, said Norm Carlson, a retired NASA test chief and former launch controller. Dittemore said that the disaster could have been caused instead by a structural failure of some sort. He did not elaborate. As for other possibilities, however, NASA said that until the problems with the wing were noticed, everything else appeared to be performing fine. NASA officials said, for example, that the shuttle was in the proper position when it re-entered the atmosphere on autopilot. Re-entry at too steep an angle can cause a spaceship to burn up. Law enforcement authorities said there was no indication of terrorism; at an altitude of 39 miles, the shuttle was out of range of any surface-to-air missile, one senior government official said. “My impression is we are going to gather every piece we can find, treat this much like an aircraft incident and see if we can solve the puzzle,” Dittemore said. But he warned: “That’s not going to be very easy. … Some evidence may have burned up during re-entry. Other evidence is just spread over such a wide territory that we may never find it.” A California Institute of Technology astronomer, Anthony Beasley, reported seeing a trail of fiery debris behind the shuttle over California. Dittemore said he was unaware of the sighting and would not speculated on what it meant. If thermal tiles were being ripped off the wing, that would have created drag and the shuttle would have started tilting from the ideal angle of attack. That could have caused the ship to overheat and disintegrate. The rust-colored foam that covers the shuttle’s 154-foot external fuel tank is just lightweight polyurethane, but it can damage when the shuttle when the spaceship is hurtling into space at high speed, Carlson said. It was the second time in just four months that a piece of fuel-tank foam came off during a shuttle liftoff. In October, Atlantis lost a piece of foam that ended up striking the aft skirt of one of its solid-fuel booster rockets. At the time, the damage was thought to be superficial. Dittemore said this second occurrence “is certainly a signal to our team that something has changed.”

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MH-60R’s Technology Includes Applications for Other Aircraft

3rd February 2003 0 comments

The technology developed for the Sikorsky MH-60R naval multi- mission helicopter, whose cockpit and mission systems are being developed by Lockheed Martin, could have multiple applications for other platforms and even adapt to advantages from other aircraft, according to officials from both companies. A potential growth avenue for the MH-60R is the capability to acquire parts, such as rotor blades, from Sikorsky’s S-92 helicopter program, Bob Kenney, Naval Hawk program manager for Sikorsky, told Defense Daily last week. Kenney said the S-92 was designed from the start to have a “dual use in reverse” relationship with the H-60 family of helicopters. The MH-60R is designed as a replacement for the LAMPS Mk. III SH-60B and SH-60F helicopters currently in Navy service. Originally, the MH-60R program constituted a remanufacture of the existing fleet of SH-60Bs. However, after conducting its own cost analysis, the US Navy decided to opt for a new procurement plan that involved the construction of 243 new helicopters for an estimated value of $7 billion. The four test and four low-rate initial production (LRIP) aircraft are converted B-model helicopters. However, the LRIP 2 aircraft will be newly built MH-60Rs, essentially serving as the first lot of new production aircraft. The MH-60R incorporates a series of structural improvements over the current SH-60B, including provisions for the Raytheon [RTN] AQS-22 low-frequency dipping sonar and a forward-looking infrared radar system, and an integrated defensive suite. Sikorsky also hopes to add fly-by-wire systems, which could add 300 pounds of savings on the aircraft, and incorporate the use of composite materials on the airframe. Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin successfully completed the first flight of the MH-60R in April.

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BE&K Construction Completes Fiberglass Reinforcement Project

3rd February 2003 0 comments

BE&K Construction have completed the overhaul of fiberglass reinforcement piping systems, an add-on design layer developed by Westinghouse engineers at the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (ANCDF) to improve operational efficiency and safety.

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Hitco Awarded Follow-On Contract for Boeing’s 767 Aircraft

3rd February 2003 0 comments

Hitco Carbon Composites, an affiliate of the German based SGL Carbon Group has entered into agreements with Boeing to produce up to 100 more composite flap track fairing assemblies for all versions of the 767 wide body aircraft. This contract extends Hitco’s production through 2007 with options for extensions in 2008 and 2009. Hitco began its participation in the 767 program in 1978 and has manufactured over 1000 ship sets since 1982. “Hitco is pleased to continue its participation in the 767 jetliner program,” said Paul Pendorf, President of Hitco. “This is an important award for the Southern California Aerospace Industry and helps economic growth in our local Gardena community,” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

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Hitco Awarded Follow-On Contract for Boeing's 767 Aircraft

3rd February 2003 0 comments

Hitco Carbon Composites, an affiliate of the German based SGL Carbon Group has entered into agreements with Boeing to produce up to 100 more composite flap track fairing assemblies for all versions of the 767 wide body aircraft. This contract extends Hitco’s production through 2007 with options for extensions in 2008 and 2009. Hitco began its participation in the 767 program in 1978 and has manufactured over 1000 ship sets since 1982. “”Hitco is pleased to continue its participation in the 767 jetliner program,”” said Paul Pendorf, President of Hitco. “”This is an important award for the Southern California Aerospace Industry and helps economic growth in our local Gardena community,”” said Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

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Faster, More Affordable Shipbuilding

3rd February 2003 0 comments

In its part of the FY ’04 budget request due to be published next week, the US Navy is expected to outline new approaches to funding and managing shipbuilding programs that deliver products faster and more affordably to meet fleet requirements, said Vice Adm. Phillip Balisle, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). With the Navy keen to abbreviate the dip below 300-ships in its fleet force structure, service leaders have been looking at new efforts to achieve a 375-ship fleet sooner, including purchasing advanced technology ships, signing up for new contract vehicles and offering industrial base stimulus programs. The Navy wants to work out ways to speed up the production time of new ships, for example using techniques and technologies associated with the aviation industry to support the construction of the new Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). LCS, begun last year under six ship concept study contracts, is expected to yield a family of modular combatants capable of varied missions in the coastal regions and built using advanced computing, composite structures, and high-tech automation systems. The advanced capability expected to come with LCS could be applicable to other markets in the United States and aboard, Balisle said. “”There is a lot of synergy…in the case of LCS, we are looking very much at the possibility of a platform that may have applications, for instance, in homeland security, the Coast Guard and the missions they do,”” he said. “”If that turns out to be the case, then there would be an opportunity to leverage that as well as we shape this industry. And for that matter, to maybe create a platform that for the first time we could sell on the commercial market overseas to foreign customers as a brand-new ship.””

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Carbon Nanotechnologies and DSM form Alliance

3rd February 2003 0 comments

Carbon Nanotechnologies Incorporated and DSM Venturing & Business Development will form a strategic alliance to develop new and improved performance materials by incorporating CNI’s single-wall carbon nanotubes into DSM’s performance materials.

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Progress in Untangling Nanotubes

3rd February 2003 0 comments

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania claim they have made progress toward a solution for one of the biggest obstacles against implementing carbon nanotubes in electronics, materials and healthcare applications. Carbon nanotubes have frustrated researchers in every field with their stubborn and unhelpful tendency to clump together in solution. According to the Penn scientists, a readily available chemical, a surfactant called sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate (NaDDBS), disperses nanotubes in water with remarkable efficiency. The discovery is described in a paper published this month in the journal Nanoletters . “”Scientists have suggested many possible applications for carbon nanotubes, but tube aggregation in solution has obstructed progress,”” said lead author Mohammad Islam, a postdoctoral researcher in Penn’s Department of Physics and Astronomy. “”This new approach improves our ability to manipulate single tubes. Single nanotubes can now participate in controlled self-assembly, form fibers and composites, and serve as microfluidic sensors in water.”” When Islam and collaborator Arjun Yodh added NaDDBS to a cocktail of water and nanotubes, the surfactant adhered weakly to the nanotubes, preventing the tubes from clinging to one another. The researchers determined that NaDDBS increased the concentration of single carbon nanotubes in water up to 100-fold. Even at high concentrations, roughly 63 percent of nanotubes in aqueous solution remained unbound. “”Sodium dodecylbenzene sulfonate is pretty non-invasive, so we expect that the nanotubes’ unique electronic, thermal, optical and mechanical properties will be preserved in suspension,”” said Yodh, a professor of physics. “”An added bonus of our complete solubilization approach is that it is gentle. Mixing this particular surfactant with nanotubes and water in a low-power, high-frequency sonicator, as we did, resulted in very little breakage of the nanotubes, which has been a problem with other treatments.”” The researchers also found that NaDDBS-treated nanotubes resisted re-aggregation for as long as three months, a feat other surfactants could not match. Carbon nanotubes tend to cling together because they are subject to substantial van der Waals attractions. While researchers have explored numerous surfactants to counter this attraction, Islam and Yodh suggest that NaDDBS’s benzene ring, together with its long alkane tail and charge group, conspire to produce an unusual molecular arrangement on the nanotube surface that reduces aggregation.

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Questions Focusing on Columbia's Wing

3rd February 2003 0 comments

Investigators trying to figure out what destroyed space shuttle Columbia focused immediately on the possibility that its thermal tiles were damaged far more seriously than NASA realized by a piece of debris during liftoff. Just a little over a minute into Columbia’s launch on Jan. 16, a chunk of insulating foam peeled away from the external fuel tank and smacked into the left wing, which like the rest of the shuttle is covered with tiles to protect the ship from the extreme heat of re-entry into the atmosphere. On Saturday, that same wing started exhibiting sensor failures and other problems 23 minutes before Columbia was scheduled to touch down. With just 16 minutes to go before landing, the shuttle disintegrated over Texas. “As we look at that now in hindsight … we can’t discount that there might be a connection,” shuttle manager Ron Dittemore said on Saturday, hours after the tragedy. “But we have to caution you and ourselves that we can’t rush to judgment on it because there are a lot of things in this business that look like the smoking gun but turn out not even to be close.” Just a day earlier, NASA had given assurances that the launch-day incident was absolutely no reason for concern. The space agency did an extensive engineering analysis that included a frame-by-frame examination of the launch video, and concluded that any damage to Columbia’s thermal tiles would be minor. If the liftoff damage was to blame, the shuttle and its crew of seven may well have been doomed from the very start of the mission. Dittemore said there was nothing that the astronauts could have done in orbit to fix damaged thermal tiles and nothing that flight controllers could have done to safely bring home a severely scarred shuttle. “My thoughts are on seven families, children, spouses, extended family. My thoughts are on their grief,” Dittemore said. And he added: “My thoughts are on what we missed, what I missed, to allow this to happen. It’s going to be a difficult day. For all of us.” The shuttle has more than 20,000 black, white or gray thermal tiles that are made of a carbon composite or silica-glass fibers and are attached to the shuttle with silicone adhesive. Loose, damaged or missing tiles can change the aerodynamics of the ship and allow heat to warp or melt the underlying aluminum airframe, causing nearby tiles to peel off in a chain reaction. If the tiles strip off in large numbers or in crucial spots, a spacecraft can overheat, break up and plunge to Earth in a shower of hot metal, much like Russia’s Mir space station did in 2001. In Columbia’s case, the shuttle broke apart while being exposed to the maximum re-entry heat of 3,000 degrees on the leading edge of the wings, while traveling at 12,500 mph, or 18 times the speed of sound. “I would say that the tiles are the No. 1 candidate” for causing the disaster, said Norm Carlson, a retired NASA test chief and former launch controller. Dittemore said that the disaster could have been caused instead by a structural failure of some sort. He did not elaborate. As for other possibilities, however, NASA said that until the problems with the wing were noticed, everything else appeared to be performing fine. NASA officials said, for example, that the shuttle was in the proper position when it re-entered the atmosphere on autopilot. Re-entry at too steep an angle can cause a spaceship to burn up. Law enforcement authorities said there was no indication of terrorism; at an altitude of 39 miles, the shuttle was out of range of any surface-to-air missile, one senior government official said. “My impression is we are going to gather every piece we can find, treat this much like an aircraft incident and see if we can solve the puzzle,” Dittemore said. But he warned: “That’s not going to be very easy. … Some evidence may have burned up during re-entry. Other evidence is just spread over such a wide territory that we may never find it.” A California Institute of Technology astronomer, Anthony Beasley, reported seeing a trail of fiery debris behind the shuttle over California. Dittemore said he was unaware of the sighting and would not speculated on what it meant. If thermal tiles were being ripped off the wing, that would have created drag and the shuttle would have started tilting from the ideal angle of attack. That could have caused the ship to overheat and disintegrate. The rust-colored foam that covers the shuttle’s 154-foot external fuel tank is just lightweight polyurethane, but it can damage when the shuttle when the spaceship is hurtling into space at high speed, Carlson said. It was the second time in just four months that a piece of fuel-tank foam came off during a shuttle liftoff. In October, Atlantis lost a piece of foam that ended up striking the aft skirt of one of its solid-fuel booster rockets. At the time, the damage was thought to be superficial. Dittemore said this second occurrence “is certainly a signal to our team that something has changed.”

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New Reichhold European Personnel

3rd February 2003 0 comments

Reichhold have made three key organizational changes with the naming of Dr. Ashok Mendiratta as vice president of Global Technology, Dr. Eric Carlier as director of Technology, Europe and Alberto Piccinotti as director of European Sales. In his new role as vice president of Global Technology, Dr. Mendiratta is based in Reichhold’s World Headquarters and Technology Center in Research Triangle Park (RTP), North Carolina. He has global responsibility for all of Reichhold’s technology functions and will report to Senior Vice President Julia Harp. From March 24, Dr. Eric Carlier will replace Raj Patel as Reichhold Director of Technology, Europe. Patel retires March 31 after 35 years of service to Reichhold. Dr. Carlier comes to Reichhold from Owens Corning in Belgium where he served as European research and development director. From February 15, Alberto Piccinotti will become director of European Sales for Reichhold. Piccinotti has been with Reichhold one year, serving as director of Master Planning-Europe. Prior to Reichhold, Piccinotti was with Owens Corning where he has had leading positions in Sales, Marketing and Global Product Management since 1985. Reichhold has also announced that a price increase on its unsaturated polyester resins in North America has been revised to $ .04 per pound instead of the $ .03 per pound increase which was announced earlier in January. “This upward adjustment of the increase we announced earlier this month is necessary due to the continuing strength in styrene, benzene and natural gas prices,” explained Reichhold Global Composites Senior Vice President Julia Harp. “The uncertainty in oil-producing nations such as Venezuela and in the Middle East is generating increased market volatility and driving an increase in styrene monomer costs,” she said.

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