To test future rocket designs, NASA is employing an age-old bar trick: Slowly and deliberately apply pressure to an aluminum can until it crumples. No foreheads will be involved, however.
In late March, engineers will use a million pounds of force to crush a 27.5-foot diameter, 20-foot-tall canister made of aluminum and lithium, hoping to learn more about shell buckling so they can design sturdier rocket skins.
Cylinder buckling is governed by imperfections in a structure and uncertainties in the loading of weight, and mathematical models can predict this behavior. But the current models, known as shell buckling knockdown factors, date to the Apollo era, well before the advent of modern composite materials and advanced computer modeling.
New materials are sturdier and lighter than the stuff used in the 1960s, but there have not been new tests to come up with new equations that can predict how a material will deform and buckle under the weight of a payload or lots of fuel. That's the goal of the upcoming can-crushing test at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.
NASA has already performed small-scale tests using 8-foot-diameter cylinders, but the big can will run the gauntlet: It will be sandwiched between two massive loading rings that will press down with almost one million pounds of force, causing it to buckle.
Engineers have placed hundreds of sensors on the can, which has also been outfitted with a polka-dot pattern that will allow engineers to precisely measure its deformations. They will use a technique called photogrammetry, which determines geometric shapes from images, according to a NASA news release.
Fuel tanks and other spacecraft materials are designed to be as thin as possible to save as much weight as possible, but spindly materials could buckle more easily if they're topped with a heavy space capsule or other payload. Engineers hope the can-crushing tests will prove the strength of thin materials, enabling rocket builders to design lightweight materials for future heavy-lift launch vehicles.
This story is somewhat depressing. NASA could of paid for this test by asking a cheap beer company (Pabst) to fill it and then charge college students to drink it.
Still working with rockets? We need to concede that this is not the way to space..and focus on another means of transport.. put MORE RD in to say a laser elevator or something.. stop wasting money on rockets.
Nice to know our taxpayer money goes into can crushing.
I was under the impression this was a forum for serious discussion.
@andrew502502 Well, I suppose you'd have a point, but then again I doubt you read past the title. And, I'd say spending money on NASA is better spent then say, another two or three wars.
And I'm a bit curious, do they pay you fox news socialites to come post here?
Using fancy polka dots to measure its shape, thats so... 2000's why didn't they buy the 20XL kinect from microsoft and hack it?
@DXN82 "I was under the impression this was a forum for serious discussion." I wish that was the case. its obvious pop sci puts up some article that are just ment to be made fun of like the giant granite balls. but some people take that humor and somehow apply to every article on this site.
@andrew502502 lets trace those tax dollars and this experiment and see how short sided your comment is. this will be short and simple. our tax dollars are going to crushing cans so that this experiment can be scaled up to EVERY SINGLE structure that can buckle. not many of them around is there? It will advance the mathematical formulas that are 60 years old that are used by thousands of people all over the world building a myriad of things. I mean a cylinder? what an out of date shape. nobody uses round pipes anymore!! (still think it is a waste?)for a more direct result this will build stronger and better rockets. The short run. let rockets will fail. What does that mean. it means that that BILLION dollar sat paid for with YOUR tax dollars doesn't go up in smoke. how are you tax dollars now? and since rockets will be the primary means of transport into space for probably a century more. EVEN when we have ion drive and fusion what ever and laser propulsion you still need a ship. Guess what it will still be a cylinder. AKA giant... you guess it can. how about your internet. your credit card. your tv, your news, you internet. get rid of ALL of it!!! cause it wouldn't be here without satellites and satellites wouldn't be here with out rockets and rockets wouldn't be here with out and experiments wouldn't be here with out... you guess it again TAX DOLLARS! bam
let rockets fail (correction) less rockets will fail.
oh and I forgot. stronger rockets (CANS) mean bigger payloads, which means cheaper launches which means less tax dollars spent!!!
Hi, I'm new to this site but I've been an avid reader for a few years. I'm currently sixteen and when I first read a copy of Pop-Sci 3 years ago my interest in Science ignited. I've always been a Sci-Fi geek (2001 a space odyssey :)) so maybe that's why I've become so interested in specifically Space exploration. I've recently been assigned to write a research paper at my school and I have decided to choose Electric Spacecraft propulsion as the topic. I agree with some of the other members, if NASA is to achieve anything TRULY amazing again, they must put more funding into alternative means of accessing space. Sure rockets are useful and still one of the best ways to reach orbit, but once they're up there their performance is relatively limited. Although there are many obstacles to come over (in the case of space-based Nuclear reactors, legal/ ethical) I believe that technologies such as
Nuclear Electric propulsion (look up VASIMR if you haven't heard about it) is the way forward. Forget the more exotic kinds such as Fusion/ Antiproton - that's still essentially the stuff of Science fiction. A megawatt class VASIMR could allow a much broader selection of mission architectures, including manned exploration of Mars (possibly even the Jovian system). Sorry for such a long post but I'd love to hear more of what people think.
@Hellopeople it's great to see you've taken an interest in science, keep it up science is pretty awesome. As to your comment about NASA putting more effort into looking for alternative methods of reaching space, unfortunately I think it comes down to money and resources.
In order to develop a completely new system for going into space it would take a ridiculous amount of money and time. Since NASA has a limited budget (it's actually a very small percentage of the US budget) they have to make tough decisions. Do we want to launch satellites and telesecopes into space using rocket technology that has been tested and used for 50+ years? or do we want to put everything on hold to try and develop a new technology? Although I believe they are researching some of these ideas, they just don't have the time, money, or direction to start implementing them.
That being said the VASMIR concept does seem pretty cool and hopefully we will have something like it developed in my lifetime.
As to the article, I think this is EXACTLY the type of research NASA needs to be doing. Let NASA research the new materials/cutting edge science with the private enterprise putting effort into space travel, space tourism ect.
Hickey10, right on the nose! :) However glamorous and useful developing an exotic-fuel space craft would be, we still need the raw power of the old rocket to get it to space. It would be awesome if we could do both at once. But instead, we have paid "cash for clunkers", etc.
Some of the early comments to this post are a painful example of the short-sighted knee-jerk reaction that often causes programs to be canceled midstream, resulting in true waste of taxpayer money.
Still, filling it with beer that is donated from a beer company, painting the companies logo, then charging students to drink it down is the best way to cut down on cost for this experiment.
I watch Fox News frequently, I'm not a socialite much less a paid one, and I think NASA's budget should be doubled. Everyone has different ideas on how our money should be spent on all sides of the political spectrum. Think about that next time.