Local business makes parts for space shuttle

By: Aaron Luna Email
By: Aaron Luna Email

A former astronaut of four shuttle missions made a stop in Grand Junction Wednesday to thank one local business for keeping him safe in space.

The usually noisy textile machines at Western Filament were briefly stopped Wednesday to honor special guest, Dan Brandenstein, a former NASA astronaut, who flew on four shuttle missions and logged more than 789 hours in space. "The first sunrise I saw really sticks in my mind because my first flight was a night launch so the first thing I saw in orbit was a sunrise, absolutely beautiful," says Brandenstein.

Brandenstein along with others from the United Space Alliance are visiting 40 manufacturers across the country that make parts for the space shuttle. Western Filament makes the ceramic braiding that seals the space shuttles wheel wells and bay doors. Brandenstein says the braiding "keeps the hot gasses on re–entry from getting into the vehicle and essentially burning it up."

It's a technology Western Filament had to develop from scratch. "It was something that there was really no specifications written," says Western Filament president Rex Nelson. Nelson says his company is proud to play such a key part in the space program. "There's only 538 astronauts in the world today and we build a critical item to keep those guys safe in space."

Aside from making high tech space material Western Filament also makes items like kite string fishing line and parachute cord. Nelson says they work solely with man made material, "Polyester, nylons, Nomex, Kevlar, high performance spectra fibers which are ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, we work with ceramic, fiberglass."

In fact, cord made at Western Filament is used in almost 95 percent of home refrigerators across the country. Western Filament also sub-contracts for Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

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