Laser Positioning System for Advanced Composites Lay-Up, Delta III Payload Fairing 972198
The McDonnell Douglas Delta family of launch vehicles, in its more than 30-year history, has proven to be the most reliable spacecraft deployment platform for both the US government and the private sector. This success is due to the continuous and focused application of advanced, affordable engineering and manufacturing technologies in all stages of the design, fabrication, assembly, quality assurance, and launch. One of the recent technological breakthroughs that has enhanced the Delta's service capabilities is the development and use of large composite structures in critical components. Among these structures is the payload fairing, which acts as a protective shroud for the spacecraft. Traditional composite manufacturing techniques, however, are very labor-intensive and time-consuming.
The challenge to produce composite hardware at a competitive cost and reasonable manufacturing cycle time was met through the application of advanced Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) techniques, including automated material cutting and laser projection. Use of these technologies improves material utilization, reduces waste, and facilitates process repeatability. This combined application and integration of automation techniques to the manufacture of several composite structures has enabled McDonnell Douglas to reinforce its position as an affordable, reliable supplier of launch vehicles.