Composite Technology for Exploration (CTE)

Large scale composite joints graphic with diagram of joint structure.

The goal of the Composite Technology for Exploration project is to advance composite technologies that provide lightweight structures to support the Evolvable Mars Campaign. It also supports SLS payload adapters and fittings by maturing composite bonded joint technology and analytical tools to predict failure and enable risk reduction.


The Composite Technology for Exploration (CTE) Project will develop and demonstrate critical composites technologies—with a focus on joints—incorporating materials, design/analysis, manufacturing, and tests that utilize NASA expertise and capabilities. In particular, the CTE project will demonstrate weight-saving, performance-enhancing bonded joint technology for Space Launch System (SLS)-scale composite hardware. Further, the project will advance the state of the art in the detailed analyses of lightweight composite bonded joints and the interactions of their stress-strain fields with local design features.

NASA seeks to mature technology and produce important innovations across the discipline areas of materials, design and analysis, and advanced manufacturing, as defined by the NASA Strategic Plan. The CTE project is related to the Agency’s vision and mission in its focus on enabling the technology infusion of lightweight composite joints into future exploration missions. Success criteria include the structural test of one or more representative bonded joint concepts in various SLS flight-like loading conditions, accompanied by analyses that accurately predict joint failure and residual strength.

Principal Technologist Project Manager
John Vickers (john.h.vickers@nasa.gov) John Fikes (john.fikes@nasa.gov)


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