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?”
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.