Spotlight on Aerospace: The Race to Space

Ever since the Race to Space blasted off with the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union in 1957, the world’s superpowers began competing to see who could dominate the universe’s great expanse. NASA joined the fray with the launch of Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the Moon, and Apollo 11’s first successful Moon landing.

A number of Apollo missions later, along with the Space Shuttle program’s run from 1972 to 2011, the United States claimed to win the race.

The New Space Race

The dawn of the 21st Century saw non-government agencies and billionaires join the race for space, including companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, funded by Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson.

Japan, China, and India are also in the fray. Japan and China recently landed a rover and probe on the Moon, respectively, while India recently launched the first-ever solar mission to study the Sun.

The stakes are higher than ever as more private entities and governmental bodies seek to stake their claim among the stars, whether the mission is to the Moon, Sun, or even Mars colonization.

No matter the destination, the requirements for specialty manufacturing companies remain the same — engineer, fabricate, and deliver durable, reliable, and precise parts and components to power the vehicles that make prolonged trips to the cold depths of space.

Enter TPC’s Speciality Manufacturers

The Partner Companies (TPC) is a collective of specialty manufacturers who produce mission-critical parts, components, and assemblies to support the modern Race to Space initiative.

TPC’s teams of engineers, precision manufacturers, and quality assurance professionals are keenly focused on tailored manufacturing solutions for the aerospace industry and maintaining a secure supply chain as client demand for cutting-edge aerospace technologies continues to grow.

Elcon Precision and Optiforms lead TPC in this sector, but many of our other specialty manufacturers contribute parts, components, and assemblies to leading companies. Each company delivers best-in-class engineering and manufacturing solutions with the highest attention to detail, reliability, and durability.

Optiforms' Expertise in Aerospace Manufacturing

Founded in 1984, Optiforms brings extensive experience in aerospace manufacturing,
specializing in components for thermal infrared imaging systems, electronics chassis,
and high-threshold gold coatings.

The company’s aerospace experience includes searchlight reflectors, covert filters, infrared imaging components, cold shields, and radiation shields used at launch sites and on spacecraft.

Where Elcon Precision Helps

Elcon Precision is located in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, where innovation and precision meet across several industries. Elcon’s staff began collaborating with space companies 20 years ago, delivering brazed assemblies, ceramic metalized components, and photochemically etched parts.

Elcon produces three noteworthy products used in space applications from its 34,000-square-foot facility.

While working with NASA, Elcon assembled components for a developmental “commercial” ion engine for deep space exploration. Ion engines have lower thrust capabilities than solid rocket engines, but they can burn continuously for many years, making them well-suited for such missions. (As an aside: if the term “ion engines” sounds familiar, it’s because most of the “spacecraft” in Star Wars use them.)

In late 2021, NASA used ion engines for the first Double Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) mission. The agency wanted to investigate and explore the concept of asteroid deflection, which involves changing an asteroid’s trajectory in space through kinetic impact.

The second product is Elcon’s high-power vacuum coaxial relays, which are built and tested at the company’s San Jose facility. These vacuum coaxial relays are used within a spaceship’s flight termination system if something goes wrong.

Here’s how it works: a ground-based system transmits a high-power radio frequency signal to an ordinance in a rocket to detonate. The system is triggered manually and designed to protect civilians on the ground from falling projectiles.

The third space-related product Elcon manufactures used in space flight applications are durable and hermetic BeO circuit boards and assemblies that can withstand physical shock, temperature cycling, corrosive gasses, and high pressures.

Elcon’s renowned expertise in brazed assembly and ceramic metallization makes it a key player in the aerospace industry. Each part, assembly, and component maintains its structural integrity in the harshest environments.

L&T's Metal Fabrication Aerospace Expertise

L&T Precision, based in Poway, California, is a precision contract manufacturing solution for many leading aerospace companies. With more than 40 years of experience, L&T’s engineers and manufacturers partner with companies that build passenger, military, and space aircraft.

L&T leverages advanced manufacturing, finishing, quality assurance, and assembly capabilities to create parts, components, and assemblies from titanium, aluminum, and high-strength steel. Its expert engineering staff works with companies at the beginning of projects to find safe and reliable manufacturing solutions.

The company’s long history, dedication to leveraging a suite of technologies to drive innovative solutions for faster decision-making and delivery, and capability in Poway and Tijuana serve the companies leading the charge to space.

Committed to Innovation and Expansion

TPC’s specialty manufacturing centers commit time, energy, and resources to continuous innovation and R&D efforts to push the boundaries of aerospace manufacturing. The commitment from TPC and each facility ensures that clients receive cutting-edge solutions that meet the evolving needs of the aerospace sector.

All three of TPC’s aerospace-oriented partners utilize exotic aerospace materials in
production and employ exacting attention to detail and stringent quality control. Each manufacturing facility holds AS9100D and ISO 9001:2015 certifications and ITAR registration.

Our company-wide direction is to innovate, support, and further our capabilities and expertise as the demand for aerospace travel and commerce grows. Contact any of our specialty manufacturing centers for more information.