Successful Mission for US Foam Company, NCFI Polyurethanes, and NASA with Orion Spacecraft Test Flight

MOUNT AIRY, NC—NCFI Polyurethane’s 30-year partnership with NASA was re-launched Dec. 5, 2014 with the space agency’s first successful post-Space Shuttle launch of the Orion spacecraft. NCFI’s spray polyurethane foam insulation (SPF) is used on the second stage liquid fuel tanks of all NASA spacecraft.

Orion Spacecraft Launching“NASA and the United Launch Alliance (ULA—the Boeing and Lockheed consortium), uses our polyurethane foam insulation, specially-formulated for high temperature and extreme pressure applications, on their external liquid fuel tanks to prevent condensation and the formation of ice on the tanks that could come free and harm the main vehicle,” says Clarence Tolbert, vice pres. with NCFI. “The fuel tanks of the Delta IV Heavy three-core rocket contain liquid hydrogen and oxygen, and are actually a tank within a tank covered by a skin onto which our foam insulation is spray applied. Nothing covers the foam, so it’s pretty obvious as the golden yellow or slightly orange acreage on the exterior of Orion.”

Tolbert says the Dec. 5th test flight was Orion’s first actual flight and the foam performed perfectly. “The unmanned flight took Orion 3,600 miles into space at speeds of up to 20,000 MPH, and saw temperatures of up to 4,000 degrees

Fahrenheit upon re-entry. Our engineers and NASA agree our foam performed ideally. It was a bit charred, but that happens naturally when the rockets ignite escaped hydrogen, which is lighter than air, and floats around the craft on the breeze. When the RS-68 main engines reach full thrust the lingering hydrogen combusts in the air forming a fireball effect that chars the foam coating. It’s normal, and doesn’t affect the foam’s insulation properties, which again, worked ideally during the test flight. ULA’s new Radial Outward Firing Igniters (ROFIs, or sparklers) start really cut down on the charring and that’s a major improvement.”

Tolbert says NCFI has a great deal of resources dedicated to all of NASA and ULA’s projects, but that Orion is dear to his heart. “We were on the Space Shuttle since its inception, and it was bittersweet to see that program retired, but we’ve been on the Orion now for five years. It’s the first spacecraft off the drawing board for NASA’s new Space Launch System. We’re thrilled to play a key role in the new Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), as it will eventually carry a crew of up to four astronauts beyond low earth orbit (LEO), to the Moon, asteroids, and even Mars. It’s good to know our American company headquartered in the great state of North Carolina goes with it.”


For more information or to arrange an interview on this subject contact: Dale McGlothlin, (202) 341-8615


Celebrating 50 years of foam. NCFI, headquartered in Mt. Airy, NC since 1964, manufactures polyurethane foam chemical systems for spray foam-in-place insulation (SPF), geotechnical, agricultural, roofing, marine floatation, packaging, specialty molding, and many other uses. The company also offers a complete line of flexible foams for furniture seating, transportation seating, bedding, carpet underlay, and packaging. NCFI also has manufacturing plants in Hickory, N.C., Dalton, GA., and Salt Lake City, UT. NCFI is a Barnhardt Manufacturing Company, Inc. company. To learn more about NCFI please visit