NASA is developing and testing new and innovative technologies that will enable the future of safe and efficient human exploration.
Description: NASA worked with MT Aerospace in Augsburg, Germany, to use their patented concave spin forming process and tooling to create new fuel tank domes. The process starts by friction stir welding (FSW) small metal plates together to create a large, unfinished metal plate known as a blank. This blank is then spin-formed to produce the dome. The single-piece, 5.5-meter-diameter dome shown was built from a 2195 aluminum-lithium (Al-Li) alloy blank.
Purpose: Because current commercially available plate sizes limit spin-formed dome scale, the objective is to mature FSW and spin-forming technologies and manufacturing processes. Ultimately, developing these techniques will enable creating larger, lighter and stronger fuel tanks.
Significance: Manufacturing a 5.5-meter dome demonstrates that spin-forming and FSW a high-strength aluminum alloy can produce a dome scaled up from the initial one-meter-diameter dome.
Next Steps: Develop the manufacturing process for future applications to other alloys and alternative architectures. This technology will benefit heavy lift launch vehicles, spacecraft, habitats and rovers.