Mark Messick is Vice President and General Manager, ATK Aerospace Structures, for Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK), an aerospace and defense company. For over 50 years, ATK Aerospace Structures has been a key player in mission-critical composite structures for the aerospace and defense industries. With more than 18,000 employees in 22 states, Puerto Rico and internationally, it has an anticipated FY10 revenue of approximately $4.8 billion.

Mark Messick, Vice President / General Manager, ATK Aerospace Structures

Mark Messick, Vice President / General Manager, ATK Aerospace Structures

How is the Aerospace Division of ATK organized?

As a division of ATK’s Aerospace Structures Group, Aerospace Structures Division is headquartered in Clearfield, Utah. The division alone employs more than 1,100 workers, with operations in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Ohio and Utah. The division is organized into three distinct business lanes: commercial aircraft programs, military programs and launch programs. The common thread amongst these businesses is the application of composites to deliver structures that exceed our customer expectations, whether it’s the skeletal structure of the Airbus A350XWB airframe or the wing skins of the F-35 Lightning II, we strive to deliver affordable, high quality composite structures.

What percentage of ATK’s business do composites make up?

Across the corporation, composite manufacturing is approximately 10 percent of our business and continues to see steady growth.

How does your division stay competitive?

As far back as the 1980s, with the development of automated fiber placement technology, the R&D process has been a key factor in our ability to maintain a leadership role in the industry. Today, the Automated Stiffener Forming (which started out as just a concept) now provides an automated solution for manufacturing composite stringers and frames for commercial aircraft and reduces manufacturing time by 90 percent compared to traditional hand layup methods.

What prompted ATK’s use of composites on a larger scale?

ATK has a deep heritage in large-scale composites such as rocket motor cases, fairings and other mission critical launch structures. But the need for large complex structures in the military and commercial aircraft markets has seen a surge. Composites are commanding a more important role in airframe and engine structures, driven by the need for improved fuel efficiency and operability. Right now, we are focusing our automated productions of composites to enable lighter and more reliable structures to meet that need. For example, automated fiber placement, stringer, frame forming and improved non-destructive inspection techniques are all being implemented for more affordable, high performance parts and assemblies for this market.