On March 11 and 12, FMI team members attended the second annual Space Launch System (SLS)/Orion Suppliers’ Conference in Washington, D.C. SLS and Orion provide a critical crewed launch capability, enabling human space flight beyond low Earth orbit with the goal of reaching Mars. The prime contractors, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, ATK, and Aerojet Rocketdyne, led the event and hosted various subcontractors of SLS and Orion. As a leader in thermo-structural composite materials, FMI will supply ceramic matrix composite components for the Attitude Control Motor (ACM) for the Orion Launch Abort System (LAS).
The Suppliers’ Conference began with a keynote from NASA administrator Charlie Bolden, which was followed by a day of presentations and panels specifically on the importance of SLS/Orion and the program’s current and future state as well as panels on industry planning and the perspective from Capitol Hill. Panelists included prime contractors, their suppliers, NASA program managers and directors, and legislative committee staff members.
On the second day of the conference, individual suppliers broke off and met with their respective legislative members. FMI met with Senators Susan Collins and Angus King, as well as members of Representative Chellie Pingree’s staff. More than 45 states are represented by the SLS/Orion suppliers and FMI is the only supplier from the state of Maine. This gave the FMI team the direct opportunity to engage with the Senators on the importance of the program’s funding in 2015 and how it directly impacts the Southern Maine region through employment and economic development.
LAS will allow the astronauts aboard Orion to navigate away from the launch vehicle during an emergency up to 300,000 feet, bringing an exceptional safety standard to the to the space program. FMI’s components were successfully demonstrated as a part of the full Launch Abort System in 2010 during the Pad Abort-1 test flight, as well as numerous subsystem ground tests. Further testing of the ACM is expected in December 2014.
The SLS/Orion conference is not just an opportunity to promote the program and raise awareness about the program’s benefits. It gives suppliers, like FMI, the opportunity to connect with other key stakeholders on the project, including interaction with primes and collaboration with other subcontractors. The synergies that develop from this conference will benefit the space programs in untold ways for years to come.