MOUNT AIRY, N.C.—When the Space Shuttle Program was retired in July 2011, it was a sad day for officials at NCFI Polyurethanes, which had been a supplier to the program since its inception.
But that gloom didn't last too long.
NCFI had turned its focus to NASA's planned Orion spacecraft test flight long before that. Orion is the first spacecraft off the drawing board for NASA's new Space Launch System.
The Orion test flight was launched successfully in December.
NCFI has been involved with the space program for the last 30 years as part of the United Launch Alliance—made up a Lockheed Martin Corp./Boeing Co./government agencies consortium.
ULA uses NCFI products on fuel tanks for the Delta, Atlas and Centaur rockets, said Clarence Tolbert, a vice president of NCFI. Basically, as part of ULA, the company has been Lockheed's partner during the production of the external tanks.
The Delta IV Heavy three-core rocket was the platform for the Orion test flight in December.
NASA and the consortium “use our polyurethane foam insulation, specially formulated for high temperature and extreme pressure applications, on their external liquid fuel tanks to prevent condensation and the formation of ice on the tanks that could come free and harm the main vehicle,” Tolbert said.