Industrial gases and space exploration have, for a long time, gone hand-in-hand. The special relationship they have was further strengthened when the latest exploration project was launched from Cape Canaveral.

Air Products played a key role, as it always has in NASA space exploration, when the Orion EFT-1 carried by a Delta IV Heavy rocket lifted off the launch pad recently signalling the beginning of a new era in deep space travel.

Spanning what is over a 50 year working relationship, Air Products now adds Orion’s lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to its list of support for NASA space missions by providing a reliable supply of industrial gases and other services.  Air Products had also fuelled all NASA travels of the Space Shuttle, Apollo, and earlier Mercury missions.

“It is very exciting to be part of this new strategy directed toward deep space travel and to have fuelled Orion for its first exploration flight test.  We have been supplying NASA for over a half-a-century and look forward to continued work on this new initiative. It brings our team a lot of pride to be part of this launch and what is really a history making event,” said Greg DeMatto, Air Products’ strategic account manager for NASA.

The Orion EFT-1 was originally scheduled for launch yesterday (Thursday 4th December), but several factors postponed it until the following day.  The delay also required some quick action on the part of Air Products, which needed to promptly deliver to the site an additional five trailers of liquid hydrogen and two more trailers of liquid helium from production facilities to replace product already used during the initial launch attempt.  The earlier delivery of industrial gases for the initial launch included much larger quantities of liquid hydrogen and liquid helium, which is stored in large tanks at Cape Canaveral for use during lift off.  Hydrogen is used in the propellant fuel mix for the rocket, and helium is an inerting gas used to purge and help force the fuel to the engines.

“It requires some thorough logistical preparation in the event a launch is postponed.  However, our operations group along with logistics have been doing this for some time and are aware of what it takes to provide reliable supply and delivery to our customer, and also its critical importance to the success of the mission,” DeMatto said.    

Orion’s mission after lifting off from the Delta IV Heavy rocket is to perform the first flight test in space of the spacecraft that is designed to carry astronauts on exploration missions into deep space.  Orion is flying this mission without astronauts and is to orbit the Earth twice and reach about 3,600 miles above the planet, which is 15 times higher than the International Space Station, before its return to Earth where it is to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean and be recovered by NASA and US Navy teams.

Air Products’ working relationship with NASA began in 1957 with the commissioning of an industrial gas plant in Ohio, and has since included supplying NASA with liquid hydrogen and other industrial gases for advancing the US Space Program.  In addition to product supply to the space launches, Air Products has also had a long-term relationship with NASA’s engine testing program at Stennis Space Centre in Mississippi, as well as Marshall Space Flight Centre in Alabama, and Johnson Space Centre in Texas.