NUI Galway researchers seek to lighten fuel tanks for space launches

21 Feb 2013

NUI Galway PhD students David Grogan (left) and Brendan Murray. Image via NUI Galway

Two PhD students in mechanical engineering at NUI Galway are helping to develop new materials to cut down the cost of launching rockets into space.

David Grogan, from Renmore in Galway, and Brendan Murray from Annaglough, Co Cavan, will work with NUI Galway’s Dr Conchúr Ó Brádaigh and Prof Seán Leen to research innovative methods of using thermoplastic composite materials to reduce the weight of fuel tanks for space launchers.

Dr Christopher Semprimoschnig of the European Space Agency (ESA) said it costs up to €30,000 to launch 1kg of payload into space.

“If ESA can reduce the weight of our liquid hydrogen/oxygen fuel tanks on launchers such as Ariane 5 and future launchers by substituting lightweight composites for metals, this will reduce the cost of telecommunications, internet and satellite television and even help enable manned missions to Mars and further parts of the universe,” Semprimoschnig said.

Funding for the research is coming from the ESA, in co-operation with the Irish Research Council and European companies.

Grogan’s research is on ‘Finite Element Prediction of Microcracking in Thermoplastic Composite Cyrogenic Fuel Tanks’, and Murray’s PhD topic is on the ‘Development of Cost-Effective Rotationally-Moulded Polymer Liners for Composite Fuel Tanks’.

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic