The CCM team, made up of both government and contractors operating over four time zones, mostly communicated through a virtual environment. It was this diversity, strong in fresh perspectives, that created many of the challenges the group faced within the timeframe they were given. “It took a while to develop the personal relationships because we hadn’t always been one big happy family,” says Kirsch. But, he says, they made it work. “Early on, we approached Apollo experts to see if they had any suggestions on how we could fast track this collaborative effort. They suggested we lock everyone in the same room until the preliminary design review began (roughly six months), which definitely would not work—especially if we wanted to keep good people!” he says. “However, we did co-locate seven of the first nine weeks, conducting lots of team-building exercises that enabled everyone to get to know each other and feel comfortable working together. After the first nine weeks, we would co-locate for two weeks every other month and converse daily through teleconferences, instant messaging, and web-based meetings (Webex). Webex allowed us to simulate being in the same room and design together even though we were thousands of miles apart.”

Uniqueness of Composites Emerge

When Lockheed Martin won the Orion project, the CCM team adopted Lockheed’s interfaces, but used composites where they used metallic materials. “We were drawing a line in the sand as we tried to work at a faster pace than the Lockheed team,” says Kirsch. “We weren’t trying to maintain compliance with their system; our purpose was to get in, get it designed and fabricated and feed the knowledge back into the baseline program.” This allowed the team to use pre-published information, relying on aluminum honeycomb and traditional composites solutions within the structure instead of trying to develop products and processes.

The design was completed over a period of 12 months, and manufacturing development five months later. With a plan intact, the group began manufacturing the test article in October 2008. The CCM was manufactured in two parts; an upper and lower shell. They first placed the composites on a composite cure tool, and then cured it in an autoclave. Next they put on the adhesive and core and cured it in an oven. Then we put the outer skin and cured it in an autoclave. “We did the upper and lower shells at the same time and it took almost three months to create those shells. On average, from design through manufacturing, it took 50 people working on the CCM to complete it,” he says.