We’ve got a new arrival in our production facility – an engineering model of one of the major structural adapters on the SSO-A stack, the CubeStack. The CubeStack, designed by LoadPath, an Albuquerque firm, acts as the core of our SHERPA vehicle on SSO-A – accommodating both our avionics and CubeSat dispenser systems. Our engineers will use the model to practice the integration of our dedicated rideshare mission’s integrated payload stack.

The model of the CubeStack in our production facility

Unlike the real thing, which will be constructed of aluminum, the mock up is made of MDF (a composite wood material) and was made right here in Seattle at Art and Industrial, a great full service manufacturing company that specializes in producing 3D products – usually for architects, engineers and artists . “We’ve never done anything like it,” says Robert Bellmore, Project Manager at Art and Industrial. “But it’s a project right up our alley.”


Art and Industrial took Spaceflight’s CAD models, and ran them through their software, which translated it to a language their CNC (Computer Numerical Control)  laser and router understood. Then the laser and router went to work. The result of such precision is tolerances within .001 inch to the specifications. As a final touch, the model was covered with six coats of paint.

A model like this helps our engineers and technicians to perform evaluations quickly and efficiently, without putting flight hardware at risk or needing to work in cumbersome cleanroom garments. We plan to utilize a series of engineering models like this to validate harnessing layouts, dry-run payload stack integration, and in general become more familiar with the SSO-A integrated payload stack in preparation for launch in 2017. Preparation like this is why we’re the experts on getting spacecraft on orbit.

Bonus: Laser cut sign courtesy of Art and Industrial