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NASA completes tests on composite cryotank

News International-French

2 Sep 2014

The agency has completed a series of tests on one of the largest composite cryogenic fuel tanks ever manufactured, bringing the aerospace industry much closer to designing, building, and flying lightweight, composite tanks on rockets.

The demanding series of tests on the 18-foot (5.5-meter) diameter tank were conducted inside a test stand at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The tank was lowered into a structural test stand where it was tested with cryogenic hydrogen and structural loads were applied to simulate stresses the tank would experience during launch. Engineers added structural loads to the tank to replicate the physical stresses launch vehicles experience during flight.

In other tests, 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.

The composite rocket fuel tank, which arrived at Marshall on March 26 aboard NASA's Super Guppy airplane, was built by the Boeing Company near Seattle.

The project is part of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in future missions. Over the next year, the directorate will make significant new investments to address several high-priority challenges in achieving safe and affordable deep space exploration. Next-generation technologies including composite systems have the potential to make rockets, including NASA’s Space Launch System - a deep space rocket being developed at Marshall - more capable and affordable.

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