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Aluminum Made in Chongqing Serves Shenzhou XIV Spacecraft

By RAN ZHENGICHONGQING|Jun 09,2022

Chongqing- The successful launch of the Shenzhou XIV spaceship from Jiuquan, Gansu Province in northwestern China, on June 5 marks the beginning of China’s third crewed mission to its space station. China has been making one achievement after another, reflecting the rapid development of its aerospace sector thanks to its institutional strengths.

Hundreds of institutes, universities, labs and companies have adopted a results-oriented model to join China’s space cause. Southwest Aluminum (Group) Co., Ltd, an aluminum fabrication enterprise based in Chongqing, has proven to be an explorer and innovator.

The crewed spaceship Shenzhou-14, atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket, is launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, June 5, 2022.

The crewed spaceship Shenzhou-14, atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket, is launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China on June 5, 2022. (Photo/Xinhua)

Aluminum made in Chongqing

More than 60% of the vital aluminum alloy materials such as skin and forging ring of spacecraft and rockets are produced by Southwest Aluminum. It is mainly used in spacecraft connection frame, middle frame, end frame, surface structure and transition ring, transfer frame, storage box, and other vital parts of the carrier rocket.

The production line of Southwest Aluminum.

The production line of Southwest Aluminum. (iChongqing file photo)

“In particular, the forging ring is a key part of the rocket, which is equivalent to the grid of a building. Only when large and small forging rings are interlinked precisely can reduce the probability of damage during a rocket launch,” said a researcher from Southwest Aluminum.

Besides, the skin of the rocket and spacecraft is all made by Southwest Aluminum. Due to the weight reduction needs, the spacecraft skin requires lower density and lighter weight than the rocket skin. These high-alloyed aluminum materials have wide varieties and specifications, large component sizes, and complex shapes. Southwest Aluminum has overcome many critical technical difficulties during the research and development process, such as casting, hot processing, and heat treatment.

Growth amid Challenges

On June 6, Southwest Aluminum announced the best operational indicator since its founding. Southwest Aluminum provides supporting equipment for major national aerospace projects such as Tianzhou 4 and Shenzhou XIV.

Southwest Aluminum has ensured the regular operation of production when facing the resurgent COVID-19 cases, the fluctuation of aluminum prices, and the rise of energy prices.

At the beginning of May, the sudden failure of the 4300mm rolling mill in the Southwest Aluminum rolling plant disrupted the whole production plan. “After the failure of the mill, all of our staff believe that we should not affect the overall production for this reason. Through a series of urgent repairs, the mill overhaul was successfully completed, and the average daily output of the mill even increased by 25%,” said Zhang Siping, the director of the rolling mill plant.

Southwest Aluminum’s achievements in advancing China’s space cause also produce tangible benefits for the whole nation in the form of transferrable research results.

Southwest Aluminum also continues to make efforts to develop civilian products, providing raw aluminum cans for Hong Kong-based herbal drink maker Jiaduobao Group (JDB). Southwest Aluminum can also be found in the doors and hoods of new energy vehicles such as NIO and Geely. The cooperation with Tesla is under negotiation. Some mobile phone cases and computer notebook shells also used Southwest Aluminum material, which has been exported to more than 40 countries and regions. The aluminum alloy material is on a par with international standards, said an insider from Southwest Aluminum during an interview with iChongqing on June 7.

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