NASA Langley Research Center on Tuesday and Wednesday is hosting representatives from about 20 large industrial companies to discuss a project that could cut by at least a third the time it takes to test materials used to build aircraft.
U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said during a meeting with the Daily Press editorial board that the idea to of streamlining the process to design and test what are called advanced composites grew out of a meeting with officials at the Hampton research facility.
The senator said he then shopped the plan to private sector leaders.
During the two-day conference, Warner said, the center's scientists will huddle with executives and technical experts from several large defense contractors to see if the idea is worth pursuing.
Warner said developing a composite-testing partnership would help diversify the region's economy and could help replace some of the jobs that were lost with the closure of Joint Forces Command.
"The process of how you design next-generation materials to make aircraft ... is a 15-year process," Warner said. "NASA Langley thought we could compress this into about a three- to five-year time frame."
"If we could do this, it'd be a huge leap, and there are lots and lots of composites that could come out of this," said Warner, who was a venture capitalist before seeking public office.
"We're going to have probably 20 major, major Fortune 1,000 entities," said Warner. "Can we get a number of the major players in industry to think that NASA Langley has got enough of an intellectual capability that (the companies) could do a public private partnership around this?"
Warner said he's talked with executives at Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Boeing about the initiative.
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