NASA’s Composite Cryotank Passes New Range of Tests

The breakthrough fuel tank which would bring the aerospace industry much closer to designing and building lightweight composite tanks on rockets was put through its paces at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama.

In the tests engineers added structural loads to the tank to replicate the physical stresses launch vehicles experience during flight. The tank successfully maintained fuels at extremely low temperatures and operated at various pressures. Engineers filled the tank with almost 30,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen chilled to –423 degrees Fahrenheit, and repeatedly cycled the pressure between 20 to 53 pounds per square inch – the pressure limit set for the tests.

John Vickers, the project manager for the Composite Cryogenic Technology Demonstration Project said;

This is the culmination of a three-year effort to design and build a large high-performance tank with new materials and new processes and to test it under extreme conditions, we are a step closer to demonstrating in flight a technology that could reduce the weight of rocket tanks by 30 percent and cut costs by at least 25 percent.

The composite tank, which was built by the Boeing Company arrived at NASA earlier in the year and is the first of its kind to sustain the thermal environment of liquid hydrogen at such high pressures which is a significant technology breakthrough for both NASA and Boeing, its hoped that this technology will go into many other aerospace applications.