12 January 2010

Alcan Aluminium Low Density Alloys selected as a critical material for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle

Alcan GlobalAerospace Transportation and Industry (Alcan Global ATI), part of AlcanEngineered Products – abusiness unit of Rio Tinto – is set to become theleading supplier of advanced aluminium-lithium (Al-Li) lightweight materialsfor the Orion crew exploration vehicle being built by Lockheed Martin as partof NASA’s Constellation Program. Orion is being designed to carry astronauts tothe International Space Station and other destinations, including the moon.

After a two-year materials study, whichincluded composites, Alcan’s Low Density Alloys were chosen for the Orion crewmodule at NASA’s Orion Project preliminary design review in August 2009. Thepreliminary design review was one of a series of checkpoints that occurs in thedesign life cycle of a complex engineering project before hardwaremanufacturing can begin. The decision confirms that new alloys will be a keystructural material in the Constellation Program, which is being designed byNASA and its contractors to replace the space shuttle for a new era of spaceexploration. Having selected materials, NASA will now proceed toward thecritical design review phase of Orion.

Low density alloys’ advantages includeproven reliability and safety in space – vital in designing a module forastronauts – and less risk of program delays that might arise when certifyingnew materials. Al-Li alloys’ inherent low density, high-specific stiffness,strength and excellent mechanical properties are expected to offer significant weightsavings and predictable cost performance.

The selection of Alcan as the leadingsupplier of Low Density Alloys for the Orion crew module confirms the greatsuccess story of Alcan’s leading edge, innovative alloys and aluminiumsolutions,” said Christophe Villemin, Alcan Global ATI President. “It alsohighlights Alcan’s long and close partnership with Lockheed Martin in aerospacematerials innovation,” Villemin added.

We are glad to extend use of these strong lightweight Alcan alloys toNASA’s next generation spacecraft,” said Jim Bray, Lockheed Martin director for Orion Crew and Service Module. “They are crucial for meeting mission objectives that include humantravel to the moon and Mars.

Two alloys are base-lined to have a keyrole in construction of the crew module that will carry astronauts into spaceand return them safely to Earth.

Al-Li 2195 will be used for main,load-bearing structural components called longerons. The material is wellproven in space applications, having been used on the space shuttle external tanksto boost America’sshuttle into orbit since 1998.

Additionally, a new and innovative proprietaryAl-Li alloy developed by Alcan, designated 2050, will be used for the veryfirst time in space. Available in plate form and offering advantages oftoughness and strength, combined with a 4 percent density reduction, it will beused for other structural components including frames, ribs and window sections. Alloy 2050has full Metallic Material Properties Development and Standardization, as wellas Aerospace Material Specifications documentation.

Shipmentsof 2050 plate for Orion from Ravenswood, West .Virginia.,began in December 2009. Shipmentsof 2195 alloys from the Montreuil-Juigné and Issoire plants in France will take place early 2010.

Alcan Global ATI has a proven track record in spaceprogrammes, through itspartnerships with NASA and their subcontractors and the European Space Agency (ESA).The space shuttle, Ariane 5 and future space exploration and launcher programs allwill rely upon Alcan materials.

About Alcan Global ATI 

Alcan Global ATI employs over 4.000people and has manufacturing plants in Europeand North America. A world leader in theproduction of aerospace plates, Alcan Global ATI provides its customers with its entire portfolio of advancedlightweight aluminium solutions. Thanks to its global R&D, manufacturingand commercial reach, AlcanGlobal ATI is able to buildlong-term supply and innovative technology partnerships with major aerospaceleaders.

About Alcan Engineered Products

Alcan Engineered Products is a global sector-leader strongly committed to developinginnovative, value added aluminium products for a broad range of civil anddefence markets and applications, including aerospace, mass transportation,automotive, packaging, energy and building. With around 11.000 employees located in over 30 countries and acommercial presence in more than 60 markets across Europe, the Middle East,Africa, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region, Alcan Engineered Products isorganised around businesses dedicated to performance materials in the areas ofaluminium rolled products, extrusions and automotive structures, aluminiumcable and international trade. Alcan Engineered Products is headquartered in Paris, France.

About RioTinto

Rio Tinto is a leading international mining group headquartered in the UK, combiningRio Tinto plc, a Londonand NYSE listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on theAustralian Securities Exchange.

Rio Tinto's business is finding, mining, and processing mineralresources. Major products are aluminium, copper, diamonds, energy (coal anduranium), gold, industrial minerals (borax, titanium dioxide, salt, talc) andiron ore. Activities span the world but are strongly represented in Australia and North America with significant businesses in South America, Asia, Europe and southern Africa.


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Alcan Aluminium Low Density Alloys selected as a critical material for the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (PDF)

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Rio Tinto Alcan Media Relations, Europe

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Alcan Global ATI, North America