NASA Tank-Crushing Test Helps Build Better Rockets

NASA engineers prepared a test article, similar in size to a rocket fuel tank, for a series of tests. (NASA)
NASA completed a series of high-tech can-crushing tests involving an enormous fuel tank crumbling under the pressure of almost a million pounds of force, all in the name of building lighter, more affordable rockets.

During the testing for the Shell Buckling Knockdown Factor Project at Marshall Space Flight Center, force and pressure were increasingly applied to the top of an empty but pressurized rocket fuel tank to evaluate its structural integrity. The resulting data will help engineers design, build and test the gigantic fuel tanks for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket NASA is developing for deep space missions.

The aluminum-lithium tank was made from unused space shuttle tank hardware and decked out in 70,000 black and white polka dots that helped high-speed cameras focus on any buckles, rips, or strains.


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