Aerospace structural testing facility opens in Alabama

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Engineering and testing company Dynetics has opened a new structures testing complex in North Alabama that will be used to build and test parts of NASA’s Space Launch System.

The facility in Decatur, Alabama will be used to build the Space Launch System’s (SLS) Universal Stage Adapter and to perform structural qualification testing for United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur booster. The facility will serve US government and commercial customers.

The SLS’s universal stage adapter will house and protect large payloads, such as habitats and deep-space exploration spacecraft, and secondary payloads including CubeSats.

The new Dynetics’ complex has three facilities: Test Stand 1, Test Control Center, and the Hardware Integration Facility.

  • The Test Stand 1 is 60 feet long, 60 feet wide, and 100 feet high with the capability to hoist 35 tons. It will support structural qualification testing.
  • The 4,000 square foot Test Control Center offers customers the capability to view tests and analyze real-time data onsite.
  • The Hardware Integration Facility allows for the assembly of large aerospace structures and houses test cells. Within the 43,000 square foot facility, the integration high bay is 15,000 square feet.

Kim Doering, Dynetics vice president of Space Systems said, “It’s an exciting time for the space industry, NASA’s exploration programs including the Space Launch System, Human Lander System and Gateway afford the Alabama space community the opportunity to make significant contributions to the establishment of a human lunar economy and to landing humans on mars.

“ULA’s new Vulcan Centaur launcher will provide a critical capability to support defense of our nation and to support the burgeoning small satellite market. Dynetics decided to build this complex so we could contribute to these vital projects.”

The ULA’s Vulcan Centaur qualification booster was in the Test Stand 1 at the opening. “The strategic location and partnership with Dynetics provides ULA with advanced testing capabilities that will benefit the Vulcan Centaur program,” said Mark Peller, vice president of major development at ULA.

“This structural test article is an important step in ensuring that the Vulcan Centaur is ready to launch in 2021 supporting our nation’s national security space program.”

Dynetics said it selected the Decatur site because of the area’s history of rocket development and testing, its proximity to our customers and its convenient location on the Tennessee River – enabling ease of transportation. The testing complex will initially employ 25 jobs with to be added in the future.

The complex took two years to build.

Decatur testing complex

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 16 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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