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Preparation for a space odyssey

Science: Valencia company creates transporter for private spacecraft

Posted: July 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 28, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

Although NASA’s space-shuttle program has come to an end, private businesses will continue to soar above our atmosphere. And tonight, Vivace-Spacetron of Valencia is celebrating their newly designed international spacecraft transporter.

Dubbed the Cygnus Vertical Container, Vivace-Spacetron built the transporter for Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp.
Vivace-Spacetron’s production of the cargo transporter represents the combined effort of two smaller local aerospace companies; Vivace and Spacetron.

Contracted by NASA, Orbital Sciences will send their Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station loaded with critical consumables, science experiments, upgraded equipment, clothing and food for the crew.

Vivace-Spacetron, a local aerospace company that designs and manufactures space and launch vehicle hardware, built the transporter specifically for the spacecraft.

The transporter passed its final battery of intensive acceptance tests just last week at the company’s Santa Clarita plant. The tests were conducted by Orbital Sciences.

“We are proud of the teamwork that produced such stellar results for this project,” said Rick Montoya, president and COO of Spacetron. 

Vivace-Spacetron is celebrating the event with a catered dinner and local leaders in attendance before shipping the transporter to the Orbital Sciences launch facility at Wallops Island, Va.

“This is an opportunity to highlight the significance of the aerospace industry to economic vitality of Santa Clarita,” said Bill Kennedy of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp.

Mission critical
Designed to deliver supplies and equipment to the International Space Station via some 20 flights, the Cygnus spacecraft will launch atop a Taurus II rocket.

Vivace-Spacetron’s transporter has the responsibility for the delicate operation of safely covering, protecting and transporting the $150 million spacecraft.

The Cygnus Vertical Container, or CVC, is tasked with moving the spacecraft around the 20-mile route at the launch site where it will be loaded with cargo, fueled and integrated with the launch rocket.

When first contacted, all Vivace-Spacetron got was a concept from Orbital Sciences. From there, it was up to the company to design the winning transporter, said Kennedy.

“The CVC is very large and complex, and nothing like it has ever existed before,” said Dave Cochran, president of Vivace. 

“Yet, our team completed the entire CVC project in the head-spinning timeframe of just eight months,” Cochran said.
The first flight of the Cygnus is expected to launch in February 2012.

Combined efforts
Joining together, Vivace and Spacetron is able to develop complex projects from a short set of written requirements, and then design, develop, manufacture and test an entire system.

Vivace provides engineering services and program management expertise ensuring the Cygnus spacecraft is safe as it approaches the space station.

Spacetron proficiency is in the precise manufacturing of space hardware, including welding all applications, including titanium structures, complex bellows assemblies and vacuum chambers used in cryogenic propulsion systems.

Cochran and Montoya have high hopes that the emerging commercial space industry will allow the country, and private, local companies, to maintain a dominant role in space exploration — something that has only been done by governments until now.

“We’ll be ready to make a serious run at commercial crew capabilities,” Cochran said. “Once that happens, we’ll move back into a realm that the other nations of the world will struggle for decades to achieve.”

Cause for celebration
Building the CVC for such a critical mission, supplying space station personnel with essentials on an ongoing basis for a period of time is a source of pride for the Valencia aerospace company.

“This validates Vivace-Spacetron’s reputation as a rare commodity; a reliable end-to-end supplier that can do the complete job with minimal oversight,” Cochran said.

Vivace-Spacetron’s celebration tonight is being held to express their gratitude to Orbital Sciences for the project and to honor their workers, suppliers and other team members who contributed to the success of the program. 

And in an ironic twist, the International Space Station is scheduled to pass over Santa Clarita between 7:27 and 7:33 p.m. on the evening of the celebration, Kennedy said.

“Now that the government-run space-shuttle program is retired, the next phase of America’s space program has been placed in the hands of the commercial space cargo-carrying companies, and we are well-positioned to serve that need,” Montoya said.

Vivace-Spacetron is located at 25136 Anza Drive in Valencia. The company can be contacted by visiting www.vivacespacetron.com or calling (661) 294-9027.
jadkins@the-signal.com

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