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Space technology uses friction stir

Connect, no. 110, January/February 2001, p.8

Following the success of the friction stir welding process in joining the fuel tanks of the Delta II rocket, another first will take place when work begins on NASA's Space Shuttle.

General Tool Company of Ohio has recently been awarded a multi-million dollar contract by Lockheed Martin Space Systems - Michoud Operations in New Orleans to design and build three friction stir welding machines to carry out this work. These machines, the largest ever built, will weld together large aluminium alloy panels to form the external fuel tank. GTC is also currently producing mission critical hardware associated with the space shuttle solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank.

Friction stir welding technology, developed by TWI, can offer several advantages over fusion welding of aluminium such as improved weld strength, ductility, reliability and process throughput. The process is uniquely valuable for aerospace aluminium alloys such as the 7000 and 2000 series as well as the 2195 aluminium-lithium alloy used for the Space Shuttle external tank.

General Tool Company has a long-standing history of successfully and efficiently building special machines to create parts and assemblies that must meet exacting specifications. GTC has successfully engineered and built a frictionstir welding maching based on development work undertaken by TWI to weld amplifier frame assembly units for the National Ignition Facility (the world's most powerful laser system) designed on behalf of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

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