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K Site – Cryogenic Propellant Tank Facility

K Site was designed to test cryogenic propellant tanks up to an 18-foot diameter in a simulated space environment. These studies included proof testing ground storage devices, tank pressurization issues, and the development of long-term insulation systems.

Physical Description: K Site was located on Ransom Road just northwest of the main Rocket Systems Area. The facility had a 9500-cubic-foot, 25-foot-diameter spherical chamber with a 20-foot-diameter access door. The facility’s main structure was a two-story concrete building that formerly served as a boiler plant for the Plum Brook Ordnance Works (PBOW). The test chamber occupied the western half of the building. The eastern half was a large clean area and overhead crane for test preparation. A small addition was added to the north wall for instrumentation equipment. NASA built an external 626-square foot semicircular control room southwest of the main building and a shop and burnoff line to the west.

Operation: The staff installed the experimental tank into the test chamber, filled the tank with hydrogen, allowed it to settle, and adjusted the pressure and temperature to the researcher’s specifications. They then opened the tank vents, activated the data-recording equipment, and initiated the test. K Site included a large hydraulic actuator that could simulate launch vibrations and a cryoshroud that simulated the cold temperatures of space. Data-recording equipment tracked the hydrogen boiloff rate to determine the effectiveness of the insulation.

Tests: Researchers used K Site to determine the boiloff rates of different size tanks; to study insulation methods such as use of multilayer blankets, self-evacuating layers, spray-on materials, and shadowshields; and to test propellant transfer between two tanks.


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