Game-changing propellant tank arrives at Marshall

Nov 28, 2012
Credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given

(Phys.org)—A 2.4-meter-diameter propellant tank made of composite materials arrived on Nov. 20, 2012 at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where engineers are preparing it for testing. Composite tanks have the potential to significantly reduce the cost and weight for heavy-lift launch vehicles and for other future in-space missions. The tank's arrival marks a significant milestone that was made possible because of contributions made over the last year by multiple NASA centers and The Boeing Company, the prime contractor for the project.

This is the largest composite tank ever produced with new materials that do not require autoclave processing. Autoclaves for processing large composite structures are complex, high-pressure furnaces. Boeing used a novel automated fiber placement technique to manufacture the tank in Tukwila, Washington. The tank is a major element of the Composite Cryotank Technologies and Demonstration Project—one of the top nine projects in NASA Space Technology's Game Changing Development Program. Marshall is leading the project with support from NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland; NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.; and NASA's in Florida.

Over the next two months, the tank will undergo a series of hydrogen pressure tests in Marshall's test facility where engineers will measure its ability to contain at extremely cold, or cryogenic, temperatures. NASA and Boeing engineers will use the test results to refine the tank design and build a larger 5.5-meter tank scheduled for testing in early 2014. The design features and manufacturing processes can be applied to propellant tanks similar in size to tanks needed for heavy-lift rockets. Large propellant tanks for the Space Shuttle and other vehicles have typically been made of aluminum.

Explore further: Why is Venus so horrible?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Composite crew module encounters space vacuum

Jun 20, 2012

(Phys.org) -- This week, engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., moved a Composite Crew Module (CCM) into the Environmental Test Facility vacuum chamber to gauge how well a space ...

NASA Ships Shuttle Fuel Tank To New Orleans For Modification

Sep 28, 2005

Less than a month after being hit by Hurricane Katrina, NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans is gearing up to restart processing space shuttle fuel tanks. The work will address foam loss during Space Shuttle Discovery's ...

NASA has a crush on you

Mar 23, 2011

It's almost one-million pounds of force on the "can," and they want to see it buckle.

Recommended for you

Why is Venus so horrible?

5 hours ago

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

8 hours ago

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

8 hours ago

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

Spinning up a dust devil on Mars

9 hours ago

Spinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.