Private contractors are a crucial part of America’s space program. NASA has been partnering with industry since the beginning of the agency, and today, these partnerships range from launch services to research and development.

A recent set of research and development partnerships announced by NASA included many familiar names. But there were also several small businesses that you may not immediately associate with the space program. NASASpaceflight had the opportunity to visit one such partner that has been supporting NASA’s mission for decades.

Bally Ribbon Mills in Bally, Pennsylvania was founded in 1923. Their specialty is manufacturing engineered fabrics and webbing for a wide variety of applications, not least of which is America’s aerospace industry.

Dick Bohannon is Product Development Manager at Bally Ribbon and gave a tour of their facility that continues to support current and future spaceflight programs.

The newest partnership is one of several Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) projects announced by NASA to prepare for Moon and Mars missions.

Bally Ribbon will be developing a new seamless weave, a weaving pattern for carbon fiber products, to be used on a mechanically deployable carbon fabric heat shield.

The partnership with NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley will allow the heat shield to be tested at the Arc Jet Complex. This facility mimics high-altitude atmospheric conditions, hypersonic speeds, and reentry heating to test various thermal protection systems.

Useful insulation materials don’t often have great strength properties. Bohannon explained that woven carbon fiber structures, as opposed to unidirectional ones, offer additional strength than other heat shield materials. The increased strength can also eliminate the need for extra supports or joints, which can reduce the weight of the structure, crucial in aerospace applications.

The new carbon fabric weave will be used in a similar way to the Adaptable Deployable

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