It’s a big step from building a Ford to building a spaceship. The auto factory that once worked on body stampings for every car produced by Ford Motor Company is doing exactly that, making parts for NASA’s spaceship that may one day go to Mars.
Detroit-based Futuramic Tool & Engineering is responsible for every major component of NASA’s Space Launch System, The Detroit News detailed in an article on Oct. 24.
Futuramic divested itself of its auto business in Detroit in 2000, after Ford began outsourcing the work to Mexico. After that, the company tried to find a new model for itself in the aerospace industry. That model has succeeded: Futuramic is now building parts for Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and ships those parts directly to the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to be used in the work being done on the Space Launch System. The number of employees rose from 70 after Ford’s departure to 285 today. Futuramic also builds aircraft parts for Boeing and spacecraft parts for Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser.
Boeing said that they chose Futuramic because of its track record of successful projects.
The majority of Futuramic’s work for the SLS is on the fuel tanks and engine sections, as well as on the weld tools NASA needs to build the rocket at a massive scale. The core of the SLS will be 212 feet tall when it is finished, and weigh 2.3 million pounds.
Some more of their critical contributions include I-beams to support the engines and aluminum panels for the intertank, the part of the rocket that bridges the liquid hydrogen tank and the liquid oxygen tank.
The Space Launch System was announced in 2011 and has utilized the services of 442 businesses in the United States, including many based in Michigan’s auto industry.
It is planned to launch for the first time in 2018, taking an unpiloted mission to the moon in order to tests its deep-space capabilities. The total budget for the SLS is $7 billion.
Filed Under: Industrial automation