Design and Operation of Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessels (COPV)

High-performance Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessels (COPVs) have been utilized in the aerospace industry for many years, providing for inherently safe, lightweight and cost-effective storage for pressurized fluids. COPVs are commonly used for the storage of fluids for propellants in spacecraft and launch vehicles. They are also used for the storage of nitrogen and oxygen in environmental and life support systems.

Typically, the stored energy for pressurized systems in aerospace applications is equal to several pounds of trinitrotoluene (TNT) with the magnitude depending on the quantity, pressure and fluid contained. In addition to the release of this energy, the consequences of a COPV failure contain the fluid include the release of potentially hazardous fluids and the loss of the contained fluid that is no longer available for its intended purpose.

The emergence of a commercial space industry has reinforced the need for efficient and safe pressure vessels.  Safety and high reliability are achieved by adhering to rigorous processes throughout the lifecycle of a pressure vessel, including the design, manufacture, testing, handling, and operation phases.

This 2-day course introduces the basic principles governing the design and operation of Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessels (COPV). The comprehensive overview of current technological understanding will provide both engineering mechanics fundamentals and practical applications.

The course focuses on the implementation of the aerospace industry consensus standards:
ANSI/AIAA S-080A-2018 Space Systems – Metallic Pressure Vessels, Pressurized Structures, and Pressure Components
ANSI/AIAA S-081B-2018 Space Systems—Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessels

Learning Objectives

Safely using COPVs in all applications (but particularly in aerospace and astronautics) requires understanding hazards and their corresponding failure modes. Once the risk is identified, the corresponding design and operational controls then can be established. Flight safety can only be achieved through rigorous process control throughout the vessel lifecycle: design, manufacture, qualification and acceptance testing, handling, and operation. There are unique safety considerations in each of these lifecycle phases.

This course focuses on the requirements developed for space applications. The requirements are documented in industry consensus standards and tailored for use in NASA programs. The International Space Station Program, NASA exploration programs, and NASA Commercial Cargo and Crew programs each have unique customization of these requirements.

Participants in this course will gain appreciation of a wide range of pressure vessels with a variety of materials aramids (e.g., Kevlar®49), carbon (e.g., T1000), and liner materials including metals such as aluminum, stainless steel, titanium and Inconel.

The relevant analysis and test methods used to demonstrate compliance to appropriate certification standards are presented. These include factors of safety set to mitigate against stress rupture failure modes of the overwrap and Leak-Before-Burst and Damage Tolerance Life of the liner for the liner.

Current non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques will be discussed as are used to detect flaws and damage in the liner and overwrap.

Participants will gain familiarity with the computational design tools that are used to analyze COPV with the commercially available Abaqus FEA product suite and associated Wound Composite Module (from Dassault Systèmes). Computational results with this tool will be discussed to underscore the importance of proper design, manufacture, and operations to prevent the occurrence of various failure modes.

Who Should Attend

The course would be beneficial to both seasoned experts in the field and new engineers to the technology:

  • Engineers and managers who are interested in the latest techniques for COPV design, development, manufacture and testing
  • System engineers who develop requirements for systems which incorporate the use of pressure vessels
  • Safety, reliability, and quality engineers who want to understand the approach to safety and mission assurance of systems which incorporate the use of pressure vessels
  • Ground Operators and test engineers who performed non-destructive evaluation of pressure vessels

Course Information:
Type of Course: Instructor-Led Short Course
Course Level: Intermediate
Course Length: 2 days
AIAA CEU's available: Yes
  1. Overview of Standards
  2. Determining Operational Envelope
  3. Modeling of Pressure Vessels with Finite Element Analysis Software
  4. Liner Fatigue and Fracture
  5. Composite Stress Rupture
  6. Collateral Damage Control
  7. Non-Destructive Testing
  8. Operational Considerations

Dr. Michael Kezirian

As president of Century Fathom, Kezirian is applying technology born in the space industry to the safe, economical and sustainable production of stranded gas from offshore oil environments.

Before starting this company, Kezirian was an Associate Technical Fellow at The Boeing Company, most recently supporting the development of the Boeing Starliner CST-100 under the NASA Commercial Crew Contract. Previously, he was a design analyst for the Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System (NORS) for the International Space Station (ISS). In support of the Space Shuttle Program (Orbiter), he was the Boeing Vehicle Safety Lead for the Endeavour Vehicle and the lead analyst for the Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessel (COPV) safety design team.

In 2008, he received the NASA Astronaut Personal Achievement Award (Silver Snoopy).

Kezirian is President of the International Space Safety Foundation and the founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Space Safety Engineering. Kezirian is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and a Fellow of the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS). He chairs the AIAA Aerospace Pressure Vessel Committee on Standards, responsible for the AIAA S-080, S-081 and S-089 documents. He is a member of the AIAA’s Space Operations Support Technical and Public Policy Committees at the national level.


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