For more than a decade, Coastal Plastic Molding Inc. has reached the stars from its injection molding plant in Alvin, Texas, placing products on space shuttle flights and on the International Space Station.
Coastal will be recognized for its efforts May 5, when it receives a Certificate of Appreciation from space program supplier United Space Alliance LLC of Houston. The certificate will be presented by former astronaut Michael McCulley, USA LLC's former president and CEO.
Coastal has worked with USA LLC for more than 10 years, Coastal spokeswoman Amy Weber said by phone May 3. The firm currently supplies a straw adapter used in water and juice drink pouches. The injection molded low density polyethylene part is taken on space shuttle missions and is used at the space station, as well as in NASA training.
According to Weber, Coastal is being recognized by USA LLC because of its excellent performance, including a zero reject rate and on-time delivery. Although space program-related work takes up a relatively small amount of Coastal's volume, the 20-year-old firm has benefited from its relationship with USA LLC.
It's a lengthy documentation process it can take weeks or months, Weber said. But once you get approved, there are very few design changes.
It also helps with other customers. When we've done qualification with aviation companies, they've said 'Well, if you can get approved by [the space program], you can do anything we'd need you to do.' Coastal is one of 40 active space shuttle suppliers being honored this year from among a group of 2,200, according to USA LLC supplier relations representative Gary Henderson.
Coastal Plastic gets their projects in on time and within budget or under budget, which saves U.S. taxpayers dollars, Henderson said. They also provide quick response and have excellent communications.
And although the product Coastal currently makes for the space program is a relatively small one, it's still important.
Everything used in human space flight has to meet an unbelievable amount of requirements, Henderson added. There are human lives involved and there's no margin for error.
If that [straw adapter] didn't work, the astronauts would have no way of taking in liquids. We can't send a repair truck.
Coastal doubled the size of its facility last year and now covers 20,000 square feet. The firm also added pad printing and screen printing last year. Coastal owned by Robert and Carol Wall does custom injection molding using a variety of commodity and engineering resins.
The pharmaceutical market generates about 30 percent of Coastal's annual sales, but no single customer accounts for more than 15 percent of its overall sales total, Weber said. The firm employs 35 and has annual sales of about $5 million.
USA LLC is a 50-50 partnership between aerospace firms Boeing Co. of Chicago and Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md. The firm was created in 1995 and has been NASA's primary industry partner in human space operations since late 2006.
McCulley is a U.S. Navy veteran who joined NASA in 1984. He piloted the space shuttle Atlantis in 1989, logging almost 120 hours in space. During that mission, crew members deployed the Galileo spacecraft, which went on to explore Jupiter.
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