Read the story here. Advertise at Before It's News here.
Profile image
By Universe Today (Reporter)
Contributor profile | More stories
Story Views
Last hour:
Last 24 hours:

Lightweight Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic Fuel Tanks Pass a Critical Test, and Could Knock a lot of Weight off a Rocket’s dry Mass

% of readers think this story is Fact. Add your two cents.

Material science is still the unsung hero of space exploration.  Rockets are flashier, and control systems more precise, but they are useless without materials that withstand the immense temperatures of forces required to get people and things off the planet.  Now a team from MT Aerospace, working on a grant from ESA, has developed a new type of material that will be immensely useful in one of the most important parts of any rocket engine – the fuel tanks.

The material itself isn’t new – known as Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP), the technology has been around for decades, and is widely used in automotive, aerospace, and civil engineering.  However, no one has been able to successfully make a rocket fuel tank out of it until now.

Outside test of a small scale composite tank.
Credit – MT Aerospace

Several challenges had to be overcome first – it had to be made leakproof and then had to withstand the extreme cryogenic pressures that come with storing rocket fuel.  Hydrogen and oxygen, which are combined in a rocket engine, are notoriously difficult to retain.  Existing field tanks, even those primarily made out of some form of composite, had an interior metal lining to ensure the highly reactive gas didn’t escape out of the tank.

Metallic linings have a downside though – they are heavy, and require many more parts and manufacturing steps than a pure CFRP tank would. Since launch costs are one of the primary cost drivers of space exploration, and weight is tied directly to launch cost, decreasing both the weight and the number of components is appealing for rocket manufacturers.

ESA wasn’t the only one with this idea – NASA and Boeing were jointly developing a composite tank as well, like this one seen in 2014.
Credit: NASA/MSFC/Emmett Given

That appeal has been well known for a long time, so ESA spent some research money on projects to develop a novel, lightweight fuel tanks.  The new technology developed by MT Aerospace was one of the outcomes of that funding.  

It wasn’t the only outcome though – other technologies have been supported by the ESA’s Future Launcher’s Preparatory Programme.  Those technologies will culminate in a full scale demonstrator project called Phoebus in 2023.  The CFRP tanks MT developed will be applied to both Phoebus’ fuel tanks and also the supporting infrastructure between the oxygen and hydrogen tanks.  

Artist’s conception of Phoebus, the ESA Upper Stage Test module.
Credit – Ariane Group

When it is ready in 2023, Phoebus will supply the first major cryogenic test of a full sized CFRP system.  But before then there’s an intermediate step for “small scale” stand alone tanks using the technology.  If it proves as effective when scaled up as it has at smaller scales, CFRP technology has the potential to eliminate up to two tons of weight off of future rocket launches.  That’s a lot of extra carrying power for the more flashy technologies of space exploration.

Learn More:
ESA – Rocket tanks of carbon fibre reinforced plastic proven possible
Composite World – Carbon fiber in pressure vessels for hydrogen
UT – NASA Tanks: Not Just Heavy Metal Any More

Lead Image:
Prototype CFRP tank in a pressure chamber
Credit – MT Aerospace

The post Lightweight Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic Fuel Tanks Pass a Critical Test, and Could Knock a lot of Weight off a Rocket’s dry Mass appeared first on Universe Today.


Before It’s News® is a community of individuals who report on what’s going on around them, from all around the world.

Anyone can join.
Anyone can contribute.
Anyone can become informed about their world.

"United We Stand" Click Here To Create Your Personal Citizen Journalist Account Today, Be Sure To Invite Your Friends.

Please Help Support BeforeitsNews by trying our Natural Health Products below!

Order by Phone at 888-809-8385 or online at M - F 9am to 5pm EST

Order by Phone at 866-388-7003 or online at M - F 9am to 5pm EST

Order by Phone at 866-388-7003 or online at M - F 9am to 5pm EST

Humic & Fulvic Trace Minerals Complex - Nature's most important supplement! Vivid Dreams again!

HNEX HydroNano EXtracellular Water - Improve immune system health and reduce inflammation.

Ultimate Clinical Potency Curcumin - Natural pain relief, reduce inflammation and so much more.

MitoCopper - Bioavailable Copper destroys pathogens and gives you more energy. (See Blood Video)

Oxy Powder - Natural Colon Cleanser!  Cleans out toxic buildup with oxygen!

Nascent Iodine - Promotes detoxification, mental focus and thyroid health.

Smart Meter Cover -  Reduces Smart Meter radiation by 96%! (See Video).

Report abuse


    Your Comments
    Question   Razz  Sad   Evil  Exclaim  Smile  Redface  Biggrin  Surprised  Eek   Confused   Cool  LOL   Mad   Twisted  Rolleyes   Wink  Idea  Arrow  Neutral  Cry   Mr. Green

    Load more ...




    Email this story
    Email this story

    If you really want to ban this commenter, please write down the reason:

    If you really want to disable all recommended stories, click on OK button. After that, you will be redirect to your options page.