NASA AND LOCKHEED MARTIN SUCCESSFULLY TEST COMPOSITE LIQUID OXYGEN TANK
NEW ORLEANS, LA, 13-JUL-04 -- A NASA-Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) team has successfully performed proof testing and life cycle testing on a one-of-a-kind unlined composite Liquid Oxygen (LO2) tank. Funding from NASA’s Next Generation Launch Technology Program allowed additional testing on the reusable tank, originally designed and built by Lockheed Martin for the X-34 vehicle at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Over the past several months, the NASA-Lockheed Martin team has put the tank through challenging life cycle tests where the tank is filled with LO2, subjected to multiple pressurizations at limit load, depressurized and drained. Altogether, the tank has completed 52 cycles including 240 pressurizations at cryogenic temperatures.
Following life cycle testing, the team hopes to remove the tank from the test stand, obtain barrel membrane coupons to validate the analysis and models, then repair the coupon areas and perform capability testing. An incentive goal is to perform high strain testing to further demonstrate the tank’s performance.
“Once we complete capability testing, Lockheed Martin will have the only unlined, man-rated, and flight-qualified composite Liquid Oxygen Tank,” said Project Manager Dave Achary. “This tank is robust and has performed rock solid since day one without anomaly or incident.”
At 9.5 feet long, 4.5 feet in diameter and weighing less than 500 pounds, the composite tank represents an 18 percent weight savings over a comparable metal tank. Several photographs* of the composite LO2 tank are available at http://www.lockheedmartin.com/michoud/gallery/gallery_index.html
“So far Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) inspections haven’t shown any changes or degradation in the tank due to life cycle testing,” said Drew Smith, NASA Project Manager. “We built in checks along the way to look for leaks, for porosity, but found nothing. This tank has performed flawlessly.”
“NASA is interested in developing NDE technologies,” Smith added. “The ultrasonics NDE technology that has been demonstrated has shown tremendous promise and getting that demonstrated on other kinds of tank designs is certainly on our to-do list as we have opportunities.”
“Lockheed Martin’s tank and its innovative manufacturing process have been a big confidence builder in the LOX testing world,” Smith said. “The community needed this, especially in the LOX world.”
The work achieved with the composite LO2 tank tracks the nation’s new space vision for exploration by either modifying existing launch vehicles or applying new, reusable or expendable shuttle-derived launch vehicles that provide more lift capability needed for future missions.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems -- Michoud Operations designs and assembles large aluminum and composite structures for aerospace and other applications and builds the Space Shuttle External Tank at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.