Local company helping with NASA moonshot

A Richland company is helping NASA reach for the moon and beyond.

Fluid Controls and Components Inc., or FCCI, has been awarded a $4.6 million contract from Bechtel to help with Mobile Launcher 2, a key part of NASA’s Artemis program.

Bechtel is designing, building, testing and commissioning the launcher, which is a ground platform used to support the Space Launch System rocket. Bechtel tapped FCCI to manage the design and fabrication of cryogenic and pressure relief valves for the project.

The Richland company is responsible for ensuring the valves meet their intended technical and performance functions.

It’s a time- and labor-intensive process, said Russ Watson, vice president for FCCI. It’s also a thrilling one for the company, which is a division of the Pennsylvania-based Dupill Group.

“To have a role in the Artemis program is incredible. Our entire staff is very, very excited about the project,” Watson said. “To have Bechtel and their client, NASA, put their full faith and trust in our company out here in Richland is humbling to say the least.”

Through the Artemis program, named for the Greek goddess of the moon, NASA says it will “land the first woman and first person of color on the moon, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before.” The space agency will “collaborate with commercial and international partners and establish the first long-term presence on the moon,” using what it learns to send the first-ever astronauts to Mars.

NASA has assembled a team of Artemis astronauts, including Richland High School graduate Kayla Barron, to take part in the missions.

Earlier this month, the space agency named the crew of Artemis II, which is expected to fly around the moon in 2024, in advance of a moon landing mission.

Those Artemis II astronauts are Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover and Christina Hammock Koch from NASA, and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Jeremy Hansen.

Mobile Launcher 2 is at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Bechtel was awarded a $383 million contract in 2019 for its design, construction, testing and commissioning.

“We are pleased to engage members of our supply chain to support new and expanding opportunities across multiple project sites spanning the country. The complex work we do demands capable and experienced suppliers like FCCI to meet the precise requirements for custom and dynamic materials needed to build Mobile Launcher 2 (ML2),” said Bechtel spokesperson Ashley Accardo.

This isn’t the first time Bechtel has worked with FCCI to help with the launcher. FCCI also previously helped design a specialized valve for the project, under a roughly $300,000 contract.

The two companies have a long history of collaboration. In fact, Bechtel in 2021 recognized FCCI with one of four 2020-21 Global Supplier Awards for its contributions to the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization plant, known as the vit plant.

The honor recognized FCCI for its expertise in certifying that valves, piping and related components meet nuclear standards and also for sourcing 108,000 pounds of “frit,” a mixture of chemicals for use when Bechtel heats up the plant’s high-temperature melters.

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