Space Shuttle External Tank Applications

Project Manager: Alex Gimarc

STS stack on the pad

The concept of taking the Space Shuttle External Tank (ET) into orbit, salvaging it, and using it on-orbit has been around since the mid 1970s. Public interest in the concept started with a suggestion by Gerard K.O’Neill to use the expended tanks as a source of aluminum for Space Manufacturing Facilities and habitats. Interest in the scientific and technical community grew to the point where the National Commission on Space in 1986, Congress in 1987 and 1988, and President Reagan in 1988 directed NASA to make the tanks available to entrepreneurs in the late 1980s. NASA signed Memoranda of Understanding in 1987, 1989, 1992 to provide ETs to the External Tanks Corporation (ETCO) of Boulder CO and Global Outposts of Las Cruces NM. An external tank-based platform was even proposed as a low-cost alternative – Option D -to the current International Space Station in 1993. After a few years of relative quiet, the concept is back as a low cost way to fly large commercial platforms in space.

This site is intended to give an overview of 25 years of concepts, policy and research into ET Applications. The basic question regarding ET Applications is this: If it’s such a good idea, why is nobody yet flying one?

External Tank 117 after rollout. Shown here to convey the interior volume of the tank.

External tank after jettison.



Entrepreneurial Activities

Interior view of External Tank

Pictures / Images

Gene Meyers’ Space Islands Group ET Torus



~ Links Last Updated June 25, 2013 ~