Watch: NASA moves massive Hydrogen tank to Alabama for testing
NASA is moving a huge liquid hydrogen tank from its Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East to Huntsville, Ala., for testing as part of its plans to return to the moon. The 149-foot-long tank is a component of the Space Launch System.
The version that departed Friday (Dec. 14) is a test model. It won’t actually be launched into space.
It was moved - slowly and horizontally on its side - out of the factory where it was constructed to a barge called the Pegasus. From there it is traveling up river to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, where it will undergo strenuous testing designed to mimic the conditions of traveling into space.
The testing is intended to ensure the tank design can withstand the worst-case conditions, said Sam Stephens, test manager for the Space Launch System’s core stage. NASA also runs computer models to simulate all the conditions the tank might encounter, Stephens said.
"We will test it until it fails, until it cracks," said Stephens. "We are going to subject it to stuff we never want the flight vehicle to see."
The tank weighs more than 100,000 pounds. “It’s a pretty good size," Stephens said. "It is the biggest tank we’ve ever built, and it’s going to go on the largest launch vehicle we’ve ever built.”
The tank holds 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen, which, along with liquid oxygen, will help propel the rocket and its cargo into space.
The information learned from the testing will help scientists as they’re building future tanks for the Space Launch System.