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Methodologies for the Manufacture of Non-Traditional Kill Vehicle Primary Structures


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Materials, Space Platforms, Weapons 

OBJECTIVE: Develop manufacturing methods to minimize kill vehicle (KV) total volume while maintaining (or improving) kinematic performance via improved volumetric efficiency. Secondary objectives should address whether the proposed manufacturing techniques favor modularity in design, rapid prototyping, increased production rate, and/or reduced lifecycle costs. 

DESCRIPTION: Seeking non-traditional manufacturing techniques (such as additive manufacturing, lightweight composites, injection molding, and/or other methods) to produce KV primary structures that improve volumetric efficiency, improve system performance via increased kinematic capability within the same volume, or maintain kinematic performance but reduce KV total volume. Conventional KVs are manufactured with a central bus structure that serves as a mounting surface for vehicle components which is wasteful from a packaging standpoint as unutilized space could be repurposed for positive applications such as propellant storage. Methodologies and manufacturing processes are desired that address fundamental issues such as: how rapidly can the design of the primary structure be modified; what is the cost relative to a traditional design; are there synergistic opportunities to integrate propellant storage into the primary structure, and if so, does the structure have the necessary integrity to serve as pressure vessel sufficient for propellant storage; how would the synergistic structure be designed to optimize volume while concurrently improving modularity, producibility and system performance? Volume and packaging constraints on future KV designs necessitate the desire for innovative methods for manufacturing lightweight kill vehicle primary structures with the goal of optimizing volumetric efficiency while concurrently improving modularity, producibility and system performance. Manufacturing techniques that facilitate modular KV designs that are field serviceable and upgradeable are also highly desired. 

PHASE I: Perform analysis of innovative manufacturing methods that can be applied to space vehicle-structures for the purposes of improving volumetric efficiencies without sacrificing the structural integrity and vehicle performance relative to a conventional design. Develop the proposed hardware design concepts through experimentation to demonstrate the feasibility of performance, volume and weight optimized solutions. 

PHASE II: Develop prototype(s) for primary component(s) of a representative space vehicle, such as propellant tanks or main bus structure that apply the innovative manufacturing techniques developed in Phase I. The intent being twofold, the first to verify that the proposed manufacturing method performs as intended and, the second to demonstrate that the manufacturing technique achieves the structural integrity and volumetric efficiencies sought. 

PHASE III: Integrate the proposed manufacturing technique(s) into a critical interceptor application and generalize the application for broader use across government programs and commercial applications. Demonstrate applicability in one or more element systems, subsystems, or components. Transition promising manufacturing methods/designs to a transition partner to incorporate into future system components. 


1: N. Werkheiser. November 2014. NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center. "Overview of NASA Initiatives in 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing."

2:  B. Thomsen, M. Kokkolaras, T. Månsson and O. Isaksson. September 2016. "Quantitative Assessment of the Impact of Alternative Manufacturing Methods on Aeroengine Component Lifing Decisions."

KEYWORDS: Innovative Manufacturing, Alternative Manufacturing, Additive Manufacturing, Volumetric Efficiencies, Space Vehicles, Integral Structural Tankage, Lightweight, Modular, Evolvable, High Performance 


William Meagher 

(256) 450-0224 

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