Boeing's Composite Cryogenic Fuel Tank Technology Ready for Use

Boeing's Composite Cryogenic Fuel Tank Technology Ready for Use
Boeing's Composite Cryogenic Fuel Tank Technology Ready for Use

The new type of large, fully composite and linerless cryogenic fuel tank designed and manufactured by Boeing has successfully passed a series of critical tests at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center at the end of 2021. These tests show that the new technology has reached maturity to be used safely in air and space vehicles.

The 4,3-metre-diameter composite tank has similar dimensions to the fuel tanks planned for use in the upper stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which is the core capability for NASA's manned lunar and deep space exploration program Artemis. If the new composite technology is used in advanced versions of the Space Launch System's Reconnaissance Upper Stage, it can increase the carrying capacity by 30 percent by saving the weight of the rocket.

Carlos Guzman, Boeing Composites Cryogenic Manufacturing Team Leader, said: “Working on composites, the next technological advancement for large cryogenic storage structures in aerospace, is challenging and offers significant advantages over traditional metallic structures. Boeing has the experience, expertise and resources to take this technology further and bring it to market for use in a variety of aerospace applications.” said.

During tests funded by DARPA and Boeing, Boeing and NASA engineers pressurized the fuel tank filled with cryogenic liquid at and beyond its estimated operational load. Even in the final test, where the fuel tank was stressed at 3,75 times the design requirements to fail, no major structural problems were encountered.

“NASA's support during the testing process was invaluable to us,” said Steve Wanthal, Boeing Test Program Manager. We've leveraged NASA's technical expertise and their investment in test infrastructure at the Marshall Space Flight Center to develop this technology that will ultimately benefit the entire industry.” said.

This technology could be used in other fields besides space travel. Building on Boeing's vast experience in the safe use of hydrogen in aviation applications, these tests will contribute to Boeing's ongoing work on hydrogen, a potential energy source in the future of commercial aviation. In addition to its space programs, Boeing has completed five flight demonstration programs using hydrogen.

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