Development of a Liner-less Storage Tank for the Space Based Laser System

Period of Performance: 05/16/2002 - 02/15/2003


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Touchstone Research Laboratory, Ltd.
The Millennium Centre Array
Triadelphia, WV 26059
Principal Investigator


Innovative materials and manufacturing processes are required to meet the performance and cost objectives of current space-based NMD and TMD system programs. One example is the use of polymer matrix composites for the reactant storage tanks aboard the Laser Payload Element (LPE) of the Space Based Laser (SBL) satellite. Currently evolving designs include aluminum clad polymer matrix composite tanks with metallic liners. Materials are needed that offer comparable performance to polymer matrix composite tanks in strength and stiffness, but with superior operating temperature capability and without the drawbacks of outgassing, metallic liners or exterior cladding for micro-meteorite protection. Touchstone Research Laboratory has developed a unique material form and manufacturing method that provides an innovative and affordable solution to the challenges given above. The innovation consists of an aluminum matrix composite (AMC) with continuous, high strength alumina fibers in "prepreg" form that is consolidated using a patented brazing process. This technology has broad applications within space-based satellite systems, providing stiffened structures for Acquisition, Tracking, Pointing (ATP) subsystems and stable platforms for optics and beam control. It also provides a liner-less alternative to current PMC tank design. Other applications of interest for space based systems include interstages and farings. Touchstone's Brazed AMC technologies have already received more than $100,000 in private sector funding from the firm's IR&D and from Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. The company expects non-SBIR revenue for Brazed AMC to exceed $15 million over the next four years. The Brazed AMC technology utilizes a material that has twice the specific strength of typical aircraft aluminum, especially at high temperatures. Components are produced using an affordable manufacturing technique that is analogous to PMC filament winding. As such, this technology is applicable to a broad spectrum of defense, aerospace, and commercial markets, including reactant and cryogenic storage tanks.