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


More stories

Image

New Hexcel plant will supply carbon fiber for Airbus A350 XWB

September 30, 2014 2:43 pm ET

Hexcel Corp. is investing $250 million on a new carbon fiber plant in France, with part of the production going into the future Airbus SAS A350 XWB.    More

Image

TenCate materials help new amphibious sport aircraft take off

September 22, 2014 4:13 pm ET

TenCate Advanced Composites is supplying materials used in a new consumer sport plane made by ICON Aircraft.    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 million dollar plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our industry analysis highlights macro industry trends and micro trends faced by companies that do business in Mexico. The report also provides key industry statistics and forecasts to anticipate future industry expansion.

Learn more

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

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

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

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

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events