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Today, the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), Scotland, and Airbus Defence and Space launched a project that may see additive manufacturing applied to the production of fuel tanks. The project to be undertaken between the two partners aims to reshore space propellant tank manufacture in the UK. Independent welding research organization TWI has been enlisted to help decipher which method is best suited for competitively producing the tanks. Efforts are being funded by the European Space Agency (ESA).
Renato Bellarosa, Head of Tank Products and Research and Technology (R&T) Manager at Airbus DS, comments, “Propellant tanks are key strategic items that we currently must procure from Germany or the United States, and we are working to re-establish the capability to make them in the UK. We had this in the past, but it was lost when the parent company of the firm involved took the production back to Germany.
WE - STILL - HAVE - INDEPENDENT - SUPPLY
“WE STILL HAVE INDEPENDENT SUPPLY CHAIN PROCESSES IN THE UK, BUT WE NEED TO INTEGRATE THEM TO MAKE THE TANKS. THIS PROGRAM WITH THE AFRC FITS INTO A GENERAL ROADMAP THAT AIMS TO DEVELOP THIS CAPABILITY.”
The AFRC’s ESA-backed project is focusing on methods capable of producing space propellant tanks as near to net-shape as possible. The idea is that this will reduce machining time and materiel wastage, making for economically competitive production.
Domes - Section - Components - Fuel - Tanks
Composed of two hemispheric domes and a cylindrical section, components of the fuel tanks are typically forged, heat treated, machined, then welded together. They are very thin structures, and milling them to the correct thickness creates a substantial amount of waste. At the same time, they must also be strong enough to store propellant under high pressure for up to 25 years, and withstand return from Low Earth Orbit (LEO) back to Earth.
Dr. Jill Miscandlon is fuel tank project...
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