NASA sees potential in composite cryotank

PLASTICS & RUBBER WEEKLY

Published: July 5, 2013 10:35 pm ET
Updated: July 5, 2013 10:37 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Aerospace

Successful tests of an all-composite cryogenic fuel tank for space launch vehicles hold promise for lower-cost access to space, perhaps before the decade is out.

A small composite fuel tank fabricated by Boeing with funding from the "game-changing" program of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate contained 2,091 gallons. of liquid hydrogen through a series of shifts in its internal pressure and three temperature cycles ranging from ambient down to minus 423F.

The June 25 test at Marshall Space Flight Center with a 2.4-meter-diameter composite fuel tank paves the way for more tests next spring. That test will subject a 5.5-metre tank to flight-like mechanical loads as well as temperature and pressure cycles.

It appears the project is achieving its goal of reducing the cost of building tanks by at least 25 percent from that of conventional aluminum-lithium tanks, while cutting the weight of tanks made from the lightweight aluminum alloy by at least 30 percent.

"This is a very difficult problem," says Mike Gazarik, associate administrator for space technology. "Composites and cryos don't work well together, and these guys have done incredible work in figuring out how to design and how to fabricate these tanks."

"It performed nominally, and nominally is a very good thing for us," said John Vickers, project manager on the composite cryogenic tank technology demonstration project at Marshall.

Next up for testing will be a 5.5-metre diameter tank already in fabrication at the Boeing Advanced Development Centre in Tukwila, Wash.

Both test tanks are built up with thin-ply composites that don't require a pressurized autoclave for curing. The out-of-autoclave fabrication helps hold the cost down, says Dan Rivera, Boeing's project manager on the tanks, while the thin-ply approach, already in use on satellite structures and other Boeing products, prevents microcracking that causes leaks.


Comments

NASA sees potential in composite cryotank

PLASTICS & RUBBER WEEKLY

Published: July 5, 2013 10:35 pm ET
Updated: July 5, 2013 10:37 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

TenCate forms high-performance resin partnership for future aerospace work

April 11, 2014 1:07 pm ET

Netherlands-headquartered TenCate Advanced Composites has partnered with high-performance resin supplier Performance Polymer Solutions Inc. to...    More

Market Reports

Market Data Book - Rankings & Lists

A one-stop download of Plastic News' exclusive annual lists and processor rankings containing essential data including sales, employees, end markets, materials and more.
EXCLUSIVE EXCEL FEATURE: full mailing address details for available plant locations.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report provides analysis and discussions of economic and political conditions, market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies. In addition, there are reviews of 25 leading thermoformers in the packaging segment, assessing their growth initiatives and performance metrics over 10 years.

Learn more

Mold Making and Tooling Review and Outlook 2014 North America

This report provides in-depth analysis of the mold and toolmaking market for North America, including discussions of trends, opportunities, threats, the latest developments in production and labor and equipment trends impacting moldmakers.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

May 6, 2014 - May 8, 2014Plastics in Medical Devices 2014

May 12, 2014 - May 12, 2014Plastics News Brazil Pharma Summit

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 3, 2015 - February 7, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events