Space

December 18, 2013

NASA engineers crush fuel tank to build better rockets

NASA engineers buckled an aluminum-lithium cylinder similar in size to fuel tanks for the largest rockets ever built.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUjpVBktTAI&feature=player_embedded

NASA completed a series of high-tech can-crushing tests last week as an enormous fuel tank crumbled under the pressure of almost a million pounds of force, all in the name of building lighter, more affordable rockets.

During the testing for the Shell Buckling Knockdown Factor Project, which began Dec. 9 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., force and pressure were increasingly applied to the top of an empty but pressurized rocket fuel tank to evaluate its structural integrity. The resulting data will help engineers design, build and test the gigantic fuel tanks for the Space Launch System rocket NASA is developing for deep space missions.

“These full-scale tests along with our computer models and subscale tests will help NASA and industry design lighter, more affordable launch vehicles,” said Mark Hilburger, senior research engineer in the Structural Mechanics and Concepts Branch at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Hilburger is conducting the tests for the NASA Engineering and Safety Center. “We were looking at real-time data from 20 cameras and more than 800 sensors during the final test.”

The aluminum-lithium tank was made from unused space shuttle tank hardware and decked out in 70,000 black and white polka dots that helped high-speed cameras focus on any buckles, rips or strains.

NASA engineers prepared a test article, similar in size to a rocket fuel tank, for a series of tests conducted inside the structural test area at the Marshall Center.

“When it buckled it was quite dramatic,” Hilburger said. “We heard the bang, almost like the sound of thunder and could see the large buckles in the test article.”

Engineers are updating design guidelines that have the potential to reduce launch vehicle weight by 20 percent. Lighter rockets can carry more equipment into space or travel farther away from Earth for exploration missions to asteroids, Mars or other distant locations.

“In addition to providing data for the Space Launch System design team, these tests are preparing us for upcoming full-scale tests,” said Matt Cash, Marshall’s lead test engineer for the shell buckling efforts and the SLS forward skirt and liquid oxygen tank structural testing. “Performing structural tests on hardware that is the same size as SLS hardware is providing tremendous benefit for our future development work for the rocket.”

The testing was conducted at Marshall’s load test annex, part of the Structural and Dynamics Engineering Test Laboratory previously used to test large structures for the Saturn V rocket, space shuttle and International Space Station.

NASA’s Space Launch System will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond Earth orbit. Designed to be flexible for crew or cargo missions, the SLS will be safe, affordable and sustainable to continue America’s journey of discovery from the unique vantage point of space. SLS will carry the Orion spacecraft’s crew to deep space destinations including an asteroid and eventually Mars.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
NASA/JPL-Caltech image

NASA’s Mars spacecraft maneuvers to prepare for close comet flyby

NASA/JPL-Caltech image This graphic depicts the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as it swings around the sun in 2014. On Oct. 19, the comet will have a very close pass at Mars. Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 m...
 
 
Image courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Satellite study reveals parched U.S. West using up underground water

Image courtesy of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation The Colorado River Basin lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater over the past nine years, according to a new study based on data from NASA’s GRACE mission. This is almost d...
 
 

NASA selects contract for mission support services at Ames

NASA has selected Wyle Laboratories, Inc., Houston, to support NASA’s flight programs and mission projects, providing support for multiple sustained project management, research and technology development capabilities that encompass all phases of mission and project lifecycles at the agency’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. The cost-plus-fixed-fee hybrid contract has a...
 

 
NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STScI) and N. Madhusudhan (UC) image

Hubble finds three surprisingly dry exoplanets

NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STScI) and N. Madhusudhan (UC) image This is an artistic illustration of the gas giant planet HD 209458b in the constellation Pegasus. To the surprise of astronomers, they have found much less water vapor i...
 
 
Air Force photograph

Budget cuts, growing threats affect space operations

Air Force photograph The Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF, system is a joint service satellite communications system that provides survivable, global, secure, protected and jam-resistant communications for high-priori...
 
 

NASA partners punctuate summer with spacecraft development advances

Spacecraft and rocket development is on pace this summer for NASA’s aerospace industry partners for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program as they progress through systems testing, review boards and quarterly sessions under their† Space Act Agreements with the agency. NASA engineers and specialists continue their review of the progress as the agency and partners move...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>