So SDC created a process that uses microcontrollers and data recording to control vacuum level, flow path and pressure throughout infusion. “That’s what makes this a really unique process,” says Mercer. “We’re controlling three of these things to a very fine degree in this part, whereas normally you might only control one or two of them. And we’re staging them at times to make sure that we avoid creating voids.”

SDC has since infused 32 billets of 3D-MAT material that will be used to make compression pads and other components for Orion’s next test flight, Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) in 2018. Last fall, SDC received a special commendation from NASA for its contributions to the development of the 3D-MAT material.

Kolozs says that all of the company’s engineers have worked on Orion at some point. “We’ve grown a lot with the program,” Kolozs reflects, adding that he hopes SDC can remain an Orion partner all the way through its ultimate mission – the journey to Mars. That would be quite a journey for San Diego Composites, too.