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Spirit AeroSystems designs and builds high-temperature components for aircraft, rockets, and missiles.

The National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) at Wichita State University announced a new $13.5 million award from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center (CCDC AvMC) for continued applied research on emerging materials for high-speed missile applications. The research program, which started in 2019, supports CCDC AvMC’s objectives to reduce weight and cost of advanced missile systems while increasing performance.

Throughout the first year of the program, researchers identified technology gaps – such as cost, understanding of processing techniques, and lack of data – that limit the use of high-temperature materials, and developed a plan to address them. Similar to the first phase of the program, NIAR will continue to work on various high-temperature-capable material systems with national industry experts, including Spirit AeroSystems and Fiber Materials Inc. (FMI), a Spirit AeroSystems company. Through this partnership, NIAR and Spirit will develop manufacturing processes and material characterization for advanced composites for future thermal protection systems.

This research has potential to optimize fabrication processes that enable high-rate affordable production of advanced composite components. Other areas of research under the program are focused on ceramic matrix composites and high-temperature polymer matrix composites.

“This program diversifies our portfolio for the Army and Department of Defense (DoD),” said John Tomblin, WSU vice president of Industry & Defense programs. “While part of our staff is focused on sustainability for the existing fleet of military vehicles such as the B-1B and Black Hawk, others are focused on emerging technologies and priorities, such as hypersonic warfighting capabilities.” Delivering hypersonic weapons is one of the DoD’s highest technical research and engineering priorities.

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