NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and its industry partner, Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale, Calif., have named two senior aerospace executives to lead a team seeking probable cause of test-related damage to an X-33 liquid hydrogen fuel tank earlier this month.
Bob Goetz, senior advisor and former vice president of engineering for Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, and Bob Ryan, retired deputy director of the Structures and Dynamics Laboratory at the Marshall Center, will lead the team investigating the damage that occurred during testing at the Marshall Center Nov. 3.
Other team members will be named shortly to the group that is beginning to assemble in Huntsville this week to analyze test data and the tank damage and determine the probable cause. The investigation is expected to take four to six weeks.
The hydrogen tank had been undergoing cryogenic and structural loads testing at Marshall since September. Before the anomaly occurred, the tank passed a pressure test with a full load of liquid hydrogen, as well as a structural loads test to simulate the force of the X-33's fully loaded liquid oxygen tank sitting atop the liquid hydrogen tank.
The Nov. 3 run was part of a series of validation tests being conducted on the tank. After the test was complete and the tank drained, an engineer viewing monitors of the tank observed exposed core material on one lobe skin along the longeron – a structural element of the tank to which the lobe skins are bonded.
Impact of the damage to the X-33 program is unknown at this time.
Lockheed Martin Skunk Works is developing the X-33 technology demonstrator under a cooperative agreement with NASA. Alliant TechSystems in Clearfield, Utah, and Lockheed Martin Skunk Works fabricated components for the vehicle's hydrogen tanks. A joint Lockheed Martin-Alliant team in Sunnyvale, Calif., completed the assembly.
The above story is based on materials provided by NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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