New Space and Tech

SISTEM – The Inflatable Fuel Tank For Space

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
April 2, 2023
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SISTEM – The Inflatable Fuel Tank For Space
The SISTEM tank design uses a 13-liter cylindrical barrel with two elliptical domes on the top and bottom. The volume of the tank is increased by inflating the structure, thereby increasing its length. Several different functional layers are required to provide fluid containment, pressure containment and insulation for specific applications. Requirements were defined for both conventional fluids as well as cryogenic fluids. The prototype design focused on laboratory demonstration of the pressure storage with conventional fluids. — ESA

This inflatable fuel tank has been designed for future human landings on the Moon, where mass and volume will be in short supply. Intended to store cryogenic liquids or gases, these tanks could be delivered in compacted form then only inflated when needed – including through the processing of in-situ resources from the lunar surface.

Made of multiple Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene (FEP) monolith sheets, surrounded by high strength ribbons and bounded by two metallic domes, the 13 litre tank can be compacted by around 60%. It can subsequently be inflated to full size, sustaining a pressure of 60 bar, or 60 times normal sea level pressure.

This Small Inflatable Space Tank Engineering Model, SISTEM, project was supported through ESA’s Technology Demonstration Element for promising new space technologies, and led by Thales Alenia Space in Italy.

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SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.