Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, has started the first in a series of tests on one of the largest composite cryotanks ever built. The 18-foot-diameter (5.5-meter) cylinder-shaped tank was lowered into a structural test stand at the Marshall Centre.
To check tank and test stand operations, the first tests are being conducted at ambient temperature with gaseous nitrogen. Future tests this summer will be with liquid hydrogen cooled to super cold, or cryogenic, temperatures. The orange ends of the tank are made of metal and attach to the test stand so that structural loads can be applied similarly to those the tank would experience during a rocket launch.
The tank, which was manufactured at the Boeing Development Centre in Tukwila, Washington is part of NASA’s Game Changing Development Program and Space Technology Mission Directorate, which are innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions. NASA focused on this technology because composite tanks promise a 30-percent weight reduction and a 25-percent cost savings over the best metal tanks used today.