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A&P Technology recently manufactured the largest structural braid ever produced for use as part of the NASA Advanced Inflatable Airlock (AIA) program. The Inflatable Airlock is a prototype designed to permit astronauts to exit from vehicles and structures into space. Current airlocks are hard wall structures.
The Airlock assembly was successfully tested at Honeywell in April 2003 to four atmospheres of internal pressure. This test demonstrated a significant safety margin relative to the actual mission environment.
The manufacture and test of the Airlock is the culmination of a one year development effort that also included coupon and subscale tests. The braided structure is nearly ten feet long with a maximum diameter of 84” and a minimum diameter of 64”. The braid architecture was controlled throughout this structure to generate the appropriate strength and stiffness properties required for the Airlock.
The single layer triaxial Vectran braid was produced on A&P Technology’s 800 carrier Megabraider, currently the largest braid machine in the world. A&P Technology was selected to braid the “restraint layer” by Clemson University’s Dr. Christine Jarvis, Director of Clemson Apparel Research. Clemson University, A&P Technology, FTL Design Studio, and Celanese Advanced Materials are all subcontractors to Honeywell, prime contractor for the NASA Johnson Space Center Program. Kriss Kennedy is the Program Manager for the AIA program.
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