A Berks County manufacturer today showcased the advanced woven thermal protection systems it is producing for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Orion spacecraft.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visited Bally Ribbon Mills in Bally where he toured the facility that is making products geared to extend human and robotic presence throughout the solar system. Bally produces materials that range from military honor ribbons to spacecraft insulation systems, and the new woven composite materials that are an advanced space technology – marking a milestone toward development of the space systems.
“We are very proud, the employees are proud,” Bally president Ray Harries said this morning. “To be honest, we probably couldn’t afford to do this without NASA. They provide financial help for small businesses.”
As a manufacturer of high-performance multidimensional woven materials, BRM is weaving the multifunctional thermal protection system padding used to insulate and protect NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Orion, which recently completed its first flight test, will carry astronauts to Mars and return them safely to Earth with the help of this technology.
“Bally Ribbon Mills is another example of the American small businesses that will help lead our future exploration missions deep into our solar system,” said David Steitz, senior public affairs officer for NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. “NASA cannot be successful without companies like Bally Ribbon Mills.”
BRM is weaving flight hardware for the EM-1 test flight mission and NASA is transferring the technology to Lockheed Martin, headquartered in Md., who is working directly with BRM, Steitz said.
“This effort matured from concept to product delivery in about 30 months,” Steitz said. “Without BRM, this would not have been possible.
The Orion heat shield compression pads BRM is building serve as the pass-through for explosive bolts that hold the capsule and command modules together before atmospheric entry.
According to NASA, the Orion spacecraft is built to take humans farther than they’ve ever gone before. Orion will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry the crew to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain the crew during the space travel, and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities.
“To go into deep space, they need a better heat shield because the spacecraft has such velocity,” Harries said.