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NASA's High Altitude WB-57 Program Requires A High Performance CNC Machine Shop

NASA's WB-57 program has been conducting high altitude research projects for years in support of space shuttle flights. A high precision CNC machine shop is required to maintain their out-of-service WB-57's.

NASA's high altitude WB-57 research program has been a vital component of space shuttle missions. It has provided valuable information for climate and high atmosphere research. Since the WB-57 aircraft was originally built in the 1950's and is no longer in active service, NASA utilizes a CNC machine shop for repairs, maintenance and upgrade services.

High Altitude Research

The WB-57 was originally designed in the 1950's during the Korean War as a high altitude jet bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. The last two surviving WB-57s are now used for high altitude research and are capable of reaching a ceiling altitude of 70,000 feet. This enables the aircraft to monitor space shuttle flights, research cosmic radiation, collect data on the climate and analyze high atmosphere conditions. These are just some of the activities these aircrafts are capable of when it comes to high altitude research.

Since these missions occur at 70,000 feet, the WB-57 program requires a high precision, reliable CNC machine shop for fabrication, service and repairs. The atmosphere is so thin at that altitude that there is only one pound of atmospheric pressure. All CNC machine shop work for NASA must comply with a rigorous set of standards and specifications to avoid failure at an altitude that leaves no margin for error.

Water Jet Cutting Technology

For the high precision CNC machine shop work that NASA requires, they look to contractors with water jet cutting technology. By using high pressure water jets at a pressure of 50,000 to 100,000 pounds per square inch, this technology can machine materials without causing heat deformation or warping along the cutting axis of work pieces.

Since water jet cutting does not generate heat, it also requires no solvents that can contaminate finished products or create toxic waste. In addition, water jets are compatible with many materials, from hard metals and ceramics to glass, rubberScience Articles, and a wide range of plastics. The water jet can also be controlled to a width within a few micrometers for precision work and minimal wasted material.

Certified CNC Machine Shop

Every industrial component that goes into NASA’s WB 57aircraft must be precise as there is no margin for error. That is why NASA only utilizes certified federal government contractors and shops with ISO certification.

NASA's history of using high precision CNC machine shop contractors has allowed a 50 year old aircraft design to prosper into today and provide the agency with valuable research to this day.

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Chris Harmen writes for Logik Precision, Inc., an industry leader in water jet cutting technology. Their state of the art CNC machine shop services commercial and government clients, including NASA's WB-57 program.

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