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Skybolt Develops Aerospace Fastening System for LCASD

Skybolt develops a fastening system for LCASD (Low-Cost Attritable Strike Unmanned Aerial System) or UAS/UAV.

Skybolt President, Ned Bowers is extremely excited to be part of the initial design and specification of specialty fasteners for this new technology known as SKYBORG. “I worked directly on the MQ1 and MQ9 programs with the Air Force and the Army.  That experience rolls right into this program based on a revolutionary approach to design objective:  Design the system from the end-user, the technician that works on the platform, then proceed back to the engineering phase.  My entire engineering life has seen and experienced the exact opposite with one big exception, Apollo.  The best success stories (Apollo) instilled this in me and this is the approach we are using in this program”, says Bowers.

Even more exciting to Bowers is why Skybolt was approached over the other dominant players.  “The conversation did not start out, ‘based on your vast aerospace experience…’, it started out, ‘based on your racing (NASCAR in particular) experience’, we feel you have the ability to provide a fastening system that meets low cost, is functional, and is technologically advanced.”

Bowers is quick to distance himself from “low cost” as this usually equates to poor quality.  But the cost is relative.  The cost for a simple quad lead screw on the MQ1 and MQ9 program that we replaced was beyond ridiculous and the design was not adaptive to the environment.  It was very user-unfriendly.  Skybolt designed and installed a non-thread, quick-release design using the same holes and the exact same tooling as the screw. 

The Skybolt design was immune to sand and dirt and it was designed from the technician back-engineering.  The objective of the LCASD program is the perfect match to mate technology and practicality to cost.  The mission is advanced and Skybolt is proud to be a part of this program.  “I will be hands-on at location for P1 (Production) phases of this build going into 2021 to ensure our objectives remain focused on the technician that services these airframes”, says Bowers.

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Skybolt returns American Astronauts to Space

In 2018, Ned and Debra Bowers visited the SpaceX facility in Hawthorn, California.  Bowers is quick to make light of the average age of the brilliant engineers at SpaceX by describing how many skateboards he ran over trying to park in their massive employee lot. Skybolt was at SpaceX to exchange ideas on new fastener technology of interest to SpaceX.  During the presentation to several engineers at SpaceX, Bowers had to ask, “Where are you using the designs we are currently providing?”  The answer was, Crew Dragon.  “So, as you guys build everything here, might I assume you have a Crew Dragon laying around?” “Yep, you want to see one?”

Ned and Debra Bowers of Skybolt Aerospace Fasteners at SpaceX in California. The Falcon in the background actually flew….although it landed at a different location.

Deb and I were escorted through various halls and stairwells until arriving at Crew Dragon.  We donned booties and white suits (SpaceX issue) and crawled in.  Bowers’s first reaction, the entire interior has the Skybolt logo on everything.  “Can I put a decal on this thing?”  “You can’t put a decal on a spaceship”, was the answer.  Bowers agreed, “I asked Werner Von Braun that same question in 1971 during Apollo and he was not impressed with the idea either”.  The following discussion was highly classified as there are not many people who worked on the Saturn V also working on Crew Dragon.

Even the employee cafeteria at SpaceX was high tech.  The menu items are sent via smartphone; the engineers punch in what they prefer; the phone rings when lunch is ready.  Less minutes in the lunch line; more minutes designing spaceships.

In May, Ned and Deb were on Cocoa Beach anxiously awaiting liftoff of a historical mission; the fact that private enterprise, a company that did not even exist much over a decade ago, was returning America to space. “And Skybolt was part of this mission and missions to come”.  Bowers’s eyes were glued to the television soundbites from inside Crew Dragon.  “Many camera angles caught the overhead compartments and Skybolt fasteners, only they were hard to notice because the wings were all in the folded position.  But I knew they were there, and it was one of the design patents we use in everything from semi-trucks to spacecraft.”

One of our unique fastener designs is part of the crew hatch.  “I suggested that I also be part of the closeout of the crew hatch prior to launch as this is a critical fastener.”  That went about the same path as the decal, unfortunately.