Space truckin’

Staff report

north lima

A local engineering company is working on mastering a project with NASA that aims to reshape previous attempts involving the release of payloads into space.

North Lima-based KTSDI, LLC is preparing to ship parts it constructed pertaining to NASA’s Balloon Launch Program. The program’s purpose is to stand as a much-less-costly way to transport cargo to space.

KTSDI specializes in vehicle solutions and will aid NASA by assembling a truck needed to move and release a massive helium balloon up into the stratosphere. These balloons may reach up to 100 times the size of Goodyear blimps and carry cargo such as satellites or serve for scientific and weather experimentation.

KTSDI began as an out-of-home mechanical-engineering company, started by its manager, Ken Timmings of Boardman, in May 2007. Timmings would work on specific parts for his customers such as axles and wheels. As the company continued to progress and attain more customers, Timmings knew he needed to expand.

“After I gained about five customers, my wife said the house was getting a little too full. When my work started to enter my 4-year-old’s nursery, I knew it was time to look for a new space,” Timmings said.

From there, the company leased a space in Boardman and moved to its current location in North Lima in December 2012.

KTSDI is geared toward vehicle solutions, designing and constructing parts for numerous machines. It also works on independent parts sent from other companies across the country. The parts may consist of axles, wheels, linkages and other spare elements kept in inventory. The company has operations in Germany, too, with partners such as Mobil Elektronik, Alfred Heyd and Neumeister Hydraulik.

KTSDI and NASA were introduced through “a consortium of companies involved in the engineering business who knew of our company,” Timmings said.

The company initially was approached by NASA with a feasibility study in the early spring of 2012; NASA provided funding and allotted time to research the company’s ability to create a more-successful truck to accomplish NASA’s goal. The truck resembles a conventional truck, but much larger. Its wheels stand about 4 feet tall; its body close to a semi truck in size; and it also contains a special pulley and release system that will ensure the balloon’s helium fill and emergence.

Timmings knew the specifics for his part of the project, but the rest was limited by NASA. When KTSDI came back from its research with a “yes,” NASA then reviewed all of the company’s findings.

“NASA reviewed our plans, and we were awarded a contract for the truck parts in the early fall of 2012,” Timmings said. “A run for the official project will take place in the mid-summer of 2014.”

According to Timmings, NASA used a variety of trucks in the past to release the balloon, but these attempts have failed, and it is now KTSDI’s job to create a revamped truck that will allow this balloon to travel down its path to the launch pad without losing control of the payload.

“Our goal is to safely install [parts] with fixed capabilities to ... [enable] the balloon to work better,” Timmings said.

As a growing company, Timmings likes to model KTSDI after his German business partners.

“We are family owned, self-financed and welcome employee apprenticeship programs,” Timmings said.

Through programs such as Ohio’s Learn to Earn (OLE), Timmings has obtained his shop mechanic, Tim Sams of Youngstown.

Timmings said: “We are a small, family-owned, home-grown business. We’d like to ... expand employment in our area.”

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