NASA photo

In a quest for lighter, tougher rockets, NASA is investigating new materials—by pressing down on giant barrels until, with a terrific crack, they break into pieces. You can watch several of these barrels bite the dust in a new video from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

The 8-foot-tall barrels tested here are made from what NASA is calling graphite-epoxy, honeycomb-core sandwich composite. They are studded with thousands of sensors, and a polka-dot pattern to make movement and deformation easier for cameras to track.

In each trial, the top of the barrel endured increasing force until it finally broke under a load of nearly 900,000 pounds. Engineers predicted when the barrel would crack under pressure to within 1 percent.

Once composite materials pass muster, they can be used to build light rockets capable of carrying bigger loads into space. This will allow astronauts to haul more equipment, food and water with them into deep space.

[H/T The Verge]