NASA takes a composite approach to fuel tanks

PLASTICS & RUBBER WEEKLY

Published: July 15, 2013 3:01 pm ET
Updated: July 15, 2013 3:02 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Aerospace

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

The 2.4-meter diameter composite fuel tank, which was fabricated by Boeing Co. with funds from NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, contained 2,091 gallons of liquid hydrogen. The unit had to handle a series of shifts in its internal pressure and three temperature cycles ranging from ambient down to minus 423F.

The test at Marshall Space Flight Center paves the way for more tests next spring. These will subject a 5.5-metre tank to flight-comparable mechanical loads as well as temperature and pressure cycles. The unit is already in fabrication at the Boeing Advanced Development Centre in Tukwila, Wash.

Hopes are high that the project will achieve 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.

Both test tanks are built up with thin-ply composites that do not 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 takes a composite approach to fuel tanks

PLASTICS & RUBBER WEEKLY

Published: July 15, 2013 3:01 pm ET
Updated: July 15, 2013 3:02 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story

Market Reports

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Market Review & Outlook 2014

This special report from Plastics News examines the North American plastics recycling industry and provides insight into indicators that impact market viability, including Resin pricing trends for virgin and recycled market material and historical Resin production trends for post- consumer and industrial waste.

Learn more

Shale Gas Market - Analysis of North American Region

This report highlights the impact of shale-based natural gas on the North American plastics market and features an in-depth analysis of production trends in the United States during 2013 and a forecast for 2014 and beyond.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

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

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events