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Waspie_Dwarf

Manufacturing A Composite Rocket Fuel Tank

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Manufacturing A Large Composite Rocket Fuel Tank

A team of engineers from NASA and Boeing came up with a unique propellant tank design and manufacturing process to build one of the largest composite rocket fuel tanks ever made. The 18-foot-diameter (5.5-meter) tank will be tested with cryogenic hydrogen at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Credit: NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center

Source: NASA/MSFC - Multimedia

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Move Over Heavy Metal, There's A New Tank Coming To Town

[For more than 50 years, metal tanks have carried fuel to launch rockets and propel them into space, but one of the largest composite tanks ever manufactured may change all that. This spring, that tank--known as the composite cryotank--is set to undergo a series of tests at extreme pressures and temperatures similar to those experienced during spaceflight.

"NASA focused on this technology because composite cryogenic tanks promise a 30 percent weight reduction and a 25 percent cost savings over the best metal tanks used today," said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate. "It costs thousands of dollars to deliver a pound of cargo to space, so lighter tanks could be a game changer allowing rockets to carry more cargo, more affordably."

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Waspie_Dwarf could a tank like that concievably lead to a resurrection of the X-33, or a similar design ?

I seem to remember that problems with the hydrogen tank was the main reason for its cancellation.

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Posted (edited)

Waspie_Dwarf could a tank like that concievably lead to a resurrection of the X-33, or a similar design ?

I seem to remember that problems with the hydrogen tank was the main reason for its cancellation.

I think NASA has moved on from the X-33. It could lead to lighter fuel tanks for the Space Launch System though.

Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

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I don't know if I am still a fan of NASA developing their own Space Launch System when it could contract with SpaceX to build one at a much reduced cost. I'd rather NASA/JPL spend their/our money developing cutting edge exploration vehicles, like Curiosity and Webb and hire US contractors to lift the vehicles into space. Politics and changing budgets make big ticket items like the SLS risky and drives the cost up due to budgetary changes and shifting legislative temperament.

Also, why compete against a homegrown company that is proving themselves to be highly successful at pushing objects into orbit? Partner with them and the others in the market and pass on technology like this beautifully designed and engineered tank.

What do you all think? Convince me I am misguided.

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What do you all think? Convince me I am misguided.

You are not misguided IF you believe that NASA should use a lower powered, less capable rocket. If you think that NASA's future human exploration of space should be totally controlled by one company and one billionaire, and if you think that NASA's exploration programmes should take a distant second place to SpaceX's commercial aspirations.

However I would ask, if you do believe all that, then why not just disband NASA and leave it to the commercial sector?

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Posted (edited)

You are not misguided IF you believe that NASA should use a lower powered, less capable rocket. If you think that NASA's future human exploration of space should be totally controlled by one company and one billionaire, and if you think that NASA's exploration programmes should take a distant second place to SpaceX's commercial aspirations.

However I would ask, if you do believe all that, then why not just disband NASA and leave it to the commercial sector?

The problem that NASA is forever faced with is the ever blowing winds of change from the executive and legislative branches. The constant decreases and increases in funding coupled with the shifts in attitude and the pure politics of having to give every state a piece of the pie means the cost of building something as large as the SLS is far more than what the private sector could do. Its a waste. The constant starts and stops also add massively to the cost as well.

SpaceX has already said they could build a bigger rocket at a fraction of the cost of the SLS and will probably do so anyways. Their expected cost is $2.5B which is about a year and a half of SLS funding for a rocket that can lift more. NASA is spending so much on SLS that they won't have money left to build the payloads it is designed to carry! The payload should be NASA's bailiwick, not an overpriced rocket that the private sector will build at a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time.

Advanced research science should be NASA's mission, not competing with the private sector to build the biggest rocket (NASA will lose that battle). How many curiosity like missions could we have sent into space for the cost of what has been spent on the SLS to date? The craft doesn't care whose rocket got it into outer space. NASA should form an IPT with SpaceX to build their rocket and put public dollars into future missions like Webb and Curiosity. Spend money on things that need to be researched but are not profitable to the private sector at the moment. This was what Apollo was. Not the rocket, the mission. The private sector is motivated to build a super-heavy lift vehicle now so let them and move on to the cutting edge stuff.

When SpaceX is blasting off a larger rocket than SLS the public will be wondering why so many billions were spent for something that US industry did in 1/10th the time at 1/10th the cost. That is when the further existence of NASA WILL be questioned. That is my fear. Build exciting science not rockets that the private sector can build bigger, faster and cheaper. Promise SpaceX 3 or 4 missions and they'll have the rocket designed and built before you have the payload ready.

Edited by Merc14
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NASA Tests Large Composite Rocket Tank

NASA is testing on one of the largest composite cryogenic rocket fuel tanks ever manufactured at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Credit: NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center

Source: NASA/MSFC - Multimedia

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30% lighter and 20% cheaper would be a helluva an achievement. I wold guess more durable as well.

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I wold guess more durable as well.

It doesn't need to be more durable, each one will only be used once.

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It doesn't need to be more durable, each one will only be used once.

It doesn't have to be but it would be nice if it was (stronger is always better if the price is low) when one considers that SpaceX and several other commercial enterprises are working on reusable first stage boosters. Not a necessity but often a benefit of using composite materials.

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NASA Completes Successful Battery of Tests on Composite Cryotank

NASA has completed a complex 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.

“This is one of NASA’s major technology accomplishments for 2014,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for Space Technology. “This is the type of technology that can improve competitiveness for the entire U.S. launch industry, not to mention other industries that want to replace heavy metal components with lightweight composites. These tests, and others we have conducted this year on landing technologies for Mars vehicles, show how technology development is the key to driving exploration.”

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This is very big deal. Anytime you can cut the weight of a component, especially one as large as a fuel tank, by 30% and teh cost of it by 25% you have changed the game.

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