Aerospace travel is constantly being developed in our modern day fast paced world, and there needs to be new and fresh breakthroughs being made to help progress the technology. In the future, our spacecrafts may eventually utilize tanks made of the lightweight material called carbon fiber reinforced plastic to fuel our journeys.
The new material, abbreviated as CFRP, is a significant improvement from previous tanks. It is lighter than metal, and is also cheaper and faster to make. Typically, liquid fuel sources would have to be frozen to be transported with metal lined tanks, but CFRP has been proved to be leak proof, which would allow it to hold both liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen without help from an external source. All of the benefits provided by CFRP allow this innovation to be the definitive next step in vehicular fuel containers.
“Fuel tanks are safety-critical elements in any propulsion system,” explained Hans Steininger, CEO at MT Aerospace. “We have provided proof that a high-performance pressure tank made of CFRP can withstand cryogenic stress. In the future, the use of CFRP high-performance tanks should not only enable safe rocket launches, it can also exploit the advantage of significantly lower mass compared to metallic tanks.”
Scientists plan to proceed with this technology to make it usable by spacecraft in the near future. They are in the works of creating and conducting experiments on CFRP tanks with thermal protection that could later be used in full scale operation. It would also be used to create a fully operational upper stage of a spacecraft. This project is named Phoebus.
“Phoebus will have 3.5m diameter hydrogen and oxygen tanks, thermal protection, structural assembly elements and feature new technologies in avionics, structures, and propulsion equipment. CFRP will be applied in the tanks, the interface structure between the two tanks and the outside cylinder representative of the upper stage outer skin,” says an article written by the European Space Agency.
This breakthrough will definitely impact the way space travel works in the future. We may be able to discover new things both on our planet and in the worlds among the stars.