Composite materials have been used for various applications in the aerospace industry for many years. We tend to picture jet fighter planes, aerial drones, large commercial planes and so on, but composites are used for so much more. For decades, fuel tanks used to launch rockets have been made out of metal. Metal might counteract the ever changing conditions in space, but it doesn’t have the lightweight properties of composites.
Engineers from Boeing – known for its use of composites – and NASA team up to create a colossal 18-foot diameter composite fuel tank. The fuel tank needs to withstand extreme weather conditions including harsh temperatures and heavy pressures.
Early this summer, the finished tank will undergo testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. The tank is comparable to current metallic versions. At this point, the engineers can only hope that their hard work and dedication will prove itself in the future. Overall, this new design will be cheaper with a 30 percent reduction in weight and a 25 percent cost savings over the current state-of-the-art competitors.
Although scientists and engineers have used composites throughout the space program, extensions to major components such as fuel tanks are showing there is still room for improvement. That improvement has only been made possible through new materials and manufacturing.
The video below shows some of the manufacturing process.