Watch NASA blow a hole in the world's largest rocket fuel tank

The Space Launch System tank went through one hell of a torture test as NASA gears up to go to the moon with the Artemis program.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

Ouch. The SLS test tank ripped wide open, just like it was supposed to.

NASA/Dennis Olive

Sometimes, failure is a success. That's what happened last week when NASA pushed a test version of a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket fuel tank past its limits, ripping a huge gash in its side. The test made NASA engineers very happy, and we can finally enjoy the spectacular footage of the blowout.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine posted video of the test to Twitter on Monday. "The tank withstood more than 260% of expected flight loads before buckling and rupturing!" he wrote.

The video is epic. The metal gives way like a balloon that's been overfilled.

The test took place at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. SLS is designed to power NASA's Artemis program, which includes a planned mission to land humans on the moon in 2024. The rocket system has seen its share of delays in development, so this successful test is a welcome milestone for the space agency.

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The test stand is equipped with hydraulic pistons that applied millions of pounds of force to the tank. The test simulated the stresses the tank would experience in use, and then ramped up the stress to push it until it broke. 

The data will help with the development of SLS, while also reassuring NASA the tank can handle the rigors of launch and spaceflight.

"This final tank test marks the largest-ever controlled test-to-failure of a NASA rocket stage pressurized tank," said Mike Nichols, lead test engineer for the tank. "This data will benefit all aerospace companies designing rocket tanks."  

NASA's 2024 goal of putting the first woman and next man on the moon is still on the ambitious side, but at least SLS is getting a little closer to reality.

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