Here at Heartland Tank Services we’ve constructed a lot of above ground storage tanks in locations throughout the United States and beyond under a wide range of circumstances. We’ve never really given any thought to building a tank any place but on earth, so we were intrigued to see a recent article about building storage tanks in space. Yes, you heard correctly; Mike Snead, President of the Spacefaring Institute™ LLC has been tasked with assessing the possibility of building small storage tanks in space, using minimal components and simple equipment. This interesting endeavour was featured in EngineerLive in an article “Building Tanks in Space…”
Why Tanks in Space?
As far as we’re aware, space exploration is not quite at the stage of constructing liquid fertilizer tanks with a view to sow crops on the moon! So it’s a valid question to wonder about the use of tanks in space. It appears initially that there are two main uses being considered. Firstly, sure to get all of the Star Trek fans excited, the tanks are being considered to act as a meteor shield. Not quite as futuristic as the Starship Enterprise we will grant you! The plan is that the tanks will be built in a similar way to a standard above ground storage tank and act as a secondary layer of protection against micro-meteorites, with another pressurized container inside. Additionally, they may also be used as space hangars.
There are definitely a few additional things to think about when it comes to building tanks in space. Welding would likely be the construction method of choice if you were building a liquid fertilizer tank or alike down on earth, but it creates some hazards up in space. The lack of gravity makes it difficult to control the temperature distribution and materials in the weld pool, both essential to a good weld. And there would likely be issues with high-temperature welding and all the weld splatters that come with it in the middle of space. The Russian Soyuz 6 team did demonstrate that welding in space was possible back in 1969. But seeing as they nearly melted a hole in their space station hull in the process, a different method or technique is clearly needed. Given this, Mike Snead says tanks that incorporate a folding spiral edge are likely preferred, giving a strong, gas-tight seal.
What does the Future Hold?
We don’t want talk of a few small tanks in space to have us jumping the gun and talking up the future space-age just yet; currently, the study is just to the test the feasibility of the idea. That said, if the project does show that it’s possible to build above ground storage tanks in space then we’d be curious to see how far this space infrastructure project can go. For now though, we’ll just concentrate our efforts on our on-earth projects; we won’t be swapping the liquid fertilizer tanks for rockets ships anytime soon.
Want to see how Heartland builds liquid fertilizer tanks here on Earth? Check out our Above Ground Storage Tank Construction page.