Under a new contract from NASA, Northrop Grumman, through its Integrated System’s sector will continue developing and refining manufacturing processes, with the aim of producing large cryogenic fuel tanks from composite materials.
The cryogenic fuel tanks are for use on the Next Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle, under the Space Launch Initiative, which includes the Orbital Space Plane.
Current cryogenic fuel tanks use aluminium in their construction. The tanks which Northrop Grumman will be working on will be made from composites using a new, cost saving technique that does not require the use of an autoclave.
The current project is a contract option which will run for 12 months and is worth $5.3 million. During the project they will be trying to construct half of a 10.5 foot diameter fuel tank. In comparison to the aluminium tanks, the composite tanks are expected to be 20-30% lighter, cheaper to produce, and result in lower operating costs.
Northrop Grumman will also develop defect detection systems for large composite structures and perform life cycle testing on smaller composite tanks constructed under previous contracts.
For more information on fuel tanks, click here.