Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, Inc. has opened its National Defense Prototype Center (NDPC), a joint project with Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR). This new research center aims to expand Spirit’s capabilities and production efficiencies in the defense and space market.
“NIAR has been a tremendous partner in the development of the National Defense Prototype Center and enabling Wichita as a center for defense growth,” said Duane Hawkins, Spirit AeroSystems executive vice president; president, Defense and Space.
“The NDPC provides a secure space for high temperature materials testing, as well as development, prototyping and industrialization capabilities to support Spirit’s growth strategy targeting $1 billion of defense revenue by the mid-2020s.”
The research center comes soon after Kansas earned its designation as one of 11 Defense Manufacturing Communities by the Department of Defense (DoD). The Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program will encourage long-term community investments to strengthen national security innovation and expand the capabilities of the defense manufacturing industrial ecosystem.
“The National Defense Prototype Center will improve research and development efforts of advanced materials and place Wichita at the center of future defense and space programs,” said Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan).
“These programs, especially the advancement of hypersonic missiles, will rely on National Defense Prototype Center as the U.S. competes with foreign powers to defend our homeland.”
The National Defense Prototype Center encompasses more than 125,000 square feet of manufacturing and lab space with processing and characterization capabilities, including high temperature testing, furnaces for fabricating and processing materials, multi-method non-destructive inspection, robotic automated fiber placement technology and a large autoclave. The center promotes the capacity to sustain broader and maximum throughput capabilities to support a high-priority national defense program.
“The more knowledge that can be generated and disseminated about high temperature materials, the more these materials can be used, optimized, and designed for specific objectives,” said John Tomblin, Wichita State’s senior vice president for Industry & Defense Programs and NIAR executive director.
“This leads to reliable and safe products that enable the industry to go further, push faster, and break through current design limitations. Not only is this a first for the state of Kansas, but for the nation in terms of testing capacity at these temperatures.”
The research center is the first of its kind with the ability to attract new aviation, defense, and space programs with a focus on high-temperature materials, such as hypersonic missiles, that can withstand temperatures of 2,500-5,000°F. The NDPC offers distinctive capabilities and research technology that will spur the development of new high temperature materials and ultra-competitive composites.