Courtesy of Solar Atmospheres

On Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, NASA’s new spacecraft Orion launched successfully from Cape Canaveral and completed its first test flight. One of the tricky parts of launching humans into space is deciding what to do if something goes wrong while riding on top of a controlled explosion for nine minutes. New to all future “human present” rockets will be the Launch Abort System (LAS). This critical part of the safety system was vacuum heat treated by Solar Atmospheres of Western PA. The large manifold housing made from 6AI 4V titanium is designed to rapidly propel astronauts away from the main rocket in case of a catastrophic explosion or any other unexpected event. Once fired, the LAS will accelerate the astronauts away from the main rocket at forces up to 10 to 15 g’s.

Michael Johnson, Solar Atmospheres’ sales manager, said, “The welded component needed to be homogenously treated to insure peak performance in the event the LAS would be needed. Precise temperature monitoring of the part and uniformity of the furnace was the easy part. Minimizing distortion and avoiding eutectics with the fixturing materials used were ultimately the real challenge. At the end of the day, both Solar and its customer had a process that proved to be successful on the prototype and the three additional manifolds that followed.”