Sen. Warner talks about industry potential for composites in HR

Photo courtesy NASA.

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – The recent budget passed by congress included $25 million for NASA’s efforts to advance composite materials research. The bulk of that money will be spent at NASA Langley’s Research Center in Hampton.

Senator Warner has been leading the efforts to fund the research and to make sure Hampton Roads is at the forefront of developing and making composite materials — a partnership that not only involves the federal government, but private industry as well.

Warner was at the Hampton facility Monday to be briefed on the efforts to advance next-general composite development, and WAVY News’ Military Reporter Art Kohn stopped by to learn more about what the project could mean for Hampton Roads.

Researchers at NASA Langley have been studying composite materials for more than two decades, but the science and the facility could be on the verge of making a “giant leap” for mankind. NASA officials say engineers have been working to reduce the time it takes space-age composite materials to go from laboratory to market.

” … by taking advantage of advancements in other fields, and really, to shrink the time to market to industry for systems using composite materials systems,” said Steve Jurczyk, Acting Director of NASA Langley.

When combined with existing systems, composite materials can make things stronger, yet lighter, faster but more fuel efficient.

“Every pound you lose, you can carry a pound of more material into space,” said Senor Analytical Scientist David Dawicke.

And the work being done at NASA Langley to test and develop composites could make Hampton Roads even more important to the nation than it is already.

“Composites has the potential with all its’ applications to be a huge industry,” said Senator Mark Warner. “We’d like to make Hampton Roads the “Silicone Valley” of composites.”

Senator Warner points to what he calls the region’s excess modeling and simulation capabilities left without a mission after The Joint Forces Command facility in Suffolk closed.

“We should be able to turn some of that from kind of strict DoD into modeling and simulating some of these advanced composites,” Warner said. “That’s how you move the timeline from the development of testing these materials from 20 years down to a three to five year timeline is what we hope to go to.”

This robot-based system known as ISACC will help them get there. ISAAC stands for Integrated Structural Assembly of Advanced Composites. The robot will be used to develop advanced composite materials, processes, structural concepts, and manufacturing and inspection techniques.

“We’ve got the intellectual expertise here,” Warner said. “We need to bring the industry presence, and I think this could be a great win for the region.”

ISAAC will not actually go online at NASA Langley until next fall. In fact they are still waiting for delivery of the system. It is important to keep in mind, the development of these composite materials will benefit not just the space industry, but civil and commercial aviation as well. In fact, there are applications for the automotive industry and many, many more potential markets.

While on the Peninsula, Warner also participated in the 2014 Youth Career Expo.

Warner was named Honorary Event Chair for the expo, which ran from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton. The event, produced by the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce; the Peninsula Council for Workforce Development and the Greater Peninsula School Districts, will include seminars, mock interviews and a hands-on, interactive exhibit hall showcasing employers in the area.

More than 2,600 high school students, 250 business professionals and more than 60 exhibitors were expected to be at the expo.

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