Boeing has been selected by NASA to design, manufacture and test two lightweight composite cryogenic propellant tanks.
According to NASA, the Composite Cryotank Technologies Demonstration effort will use advanced composite materials to develop new technologies that could be applied to multiple future NASA missions, including human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit.
Boeing will receive approximately $24m (around £15m) over the life of the project from NASA’s Space Technology Program for the work, which starts this month.
The tanks will be manufactured at a Boeing facility in Seattle and testing will start in late 2013 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
‘The goal of this particular technology demonstration effort is to achieve 30 per cent weight savings and a 25 per cent cost savings from traditional metallic tanks,’ said Michael Gazarik, director of NASA’s Space Technology Program. ‘Weight savings alone would allow us to increase our upmass capability, which is important when considering payload size and cost.’
The tanks are said to incorporate design features and new manufacturing processes applicable to designs up to 10m in diameter. Tanks could be used on future heavy-lift vehicles, in-space propellant depots and other Earth-departure exploration architectures.