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air-products-linde-to-supply-nasa-with-liquid-hydrogen
© NASA
air-products-linde-to-supply-nasa-with-liquid-hydrogen
© NASA

Air Products, Linde to supply NASA with liquid hydrogen

NASA on Monday (November 14) revealed it had awarded contracts to Air Products and Linde for the supply up to 6,800 tonnes of liquid hydrogen for use across its facilities.

H2 View understands the contracts include multiple firm-fixed price delivery orders, with maximum values of approximately $57.3m for Air Products, and $29.1m for Linde.

Set to commence on December 1, 2022, NASA has said the contacts consist of a two-year base period followed by an option to extend the contacts to November 30, 2025.

Under the contacts, Air Products will supply up to 5,940 tonnes of liquid hydrogen to the space agency’s Marshall Space Flight Centre in Alabama, US, while Linde is expected to deliver up to 857 tonnes to the Glenn Research Centre in Cleveland and Armstrong Test Facility in Ohio, as well as the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

NASA uses liquid hydrogen combined with liquid oxygen as fuel in cryogenic rocket engines. Adam Swanger, Principal Investigator at the Cryogenics Test Laboratory, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, explained to H2 View in 2021 that the agency has been using it since the 1960s.

Swanger told H2 View, “For rocket propellant, you’re always going to use liquid oxygen, and then you really only have three fuel options – hydrogen, methane or natural gas, and then there’s what we call RP1, which is refined kerosene. Of these three combinations, liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen is the highest performing one. Once you’re out of the atmosphere and you’re in space, that’s where liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen really shine from a performance standpoint.

In August and September this year (2022), NASA’s plans for returning to the moon were hindered when it waived off the launch of its Artemis I rocket on two occasions, both due to liquid hydrogen leaks.

Read more: Liquid hydrogen leaks waive off NASA’s Artemis launch attempts

NASA shares why hydrogen plays such a vital role in its missions 

© NASA

It was exactly a decade ago that NASA’s Space Shuttle touched down for the final time in the US, signalling the end of one of the most successful space programmes in history. A ship like no other, the space shuttle launched like a rocket and landed back on Earth like a glider, transporting astronauts to space and back for 30 years.

The world’s first reusable spacecraft was comprised of four elements – the shuttle itself, also known as the orbiter, plus a pair of solid rocket boosters and a single external fuel tank. Perhaps most recognisable was the external tank, the familiar orange structure that dominates most images of the shuttle at liftoff. At more than 15-stories tall, it was the largest part of the shuttle stack.

Getting its signature orange colour from the foam insulation sprayed on the tank’s aluminium structure to keep the super cold propellants from evaporating too quickly and ice from building up on the outside, the tank’s main job was to supply around 535,000 gallons of super cold liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to the shuttle’s three main engines. Hydrogen and oxygen are one of the highest performance propellant combinations, and NASA’s use of it dates back even further than the Space Shuttle programme…

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