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Game Changing Development

Composite Cryotank Technologies and Demonstration (CCTD)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Advance the technologies for composite cryogenic propellant tanks at diameters suitable for future heavy lift vehicles and other in-space applications with a goal of reducing weight and cost.

Switching from metallic to composite construction holds the potential to dramatically increase the performance capabilities of future space systems through a dramatic reduction in weight. A potential initial target application for the composite technology is an upgrade to the upper stage of NASA's Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket. 2.4-meter diameter Tank Test Summary Built by Boeing at their Tukwila, Wash., facility, the tank arrived at NASA in late 2012. On June 25, 2013 at NASA MSFC, the 2.4m diameter all-composite cryogenic tank was successfully pressure tested. The test met all requirements: stepwise fill with liq­uid hydrogen (–423 °F) to 90% volume capacity followed by pressurizing the tank to 135 psig. The 2.4m tank was then cycled through 20 pressure/vent cycles, measuring hydrogen gas permeation on the tank dome. 5.5m Tank Test Summary NASA's Super Guppy, a wide-bodied cargo aircraft, landed at the Redstone Army Airfield near Huntsville, Ala. on March 26, 2014 and since then NASA has completed a demand­ing series of tests inside the test stand at MSFC. 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 °F, and repeatedly cycled the pressure between 20 to 53 pounds per square inch – the pressure limit set for the tests. These successful tests marked an important milestone on the path to demonstrating the composite cryogenic tanks needed to accomplish the next generation of deep space missions. This investment in game changing space technology will help enable NASA's exploration of deep space while directly benefiting American industrial capability in the manufacturing and use of composites. Additional Information: In September 2011, NASA awarded Boeing the contract to design, manufacture and test two lightweight composite cryogenic propellant tanks. CCTD was an agency-wide effort with Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) leading project management, manufacturing & test, Glenn Research Center (GRC) leading the materials, and Langley Research Center (LaRC) leading structures effort for this project. Significant contributions from LaRC & GRC loads/stress personnel contributed to the understanding of thermal/ mechanical strain response while undergoing testing at cryogenic temperatures. The project finalized in September 2014. The composite tank project provided a great deal of expe­rience and improved confidence in utilizing composites and therefore is changing the way we look at composites for spacecraft applications.

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Project Duration

Technology Maturity (TRL)