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When NASA made history last week with the successful test flight of the Orion spacecraft, fuel from Air Products powered the space agency into its future.
The Orion, the craft that NASA hopes can take people back to the Earth’s moon and to transport them someday to Mars, was powered with liquid nitrogen from the Trexlertown, Pa., company, which has contributed to America’s spaceflight history for more than 50 years.
The short test flight on Dec. 5, 2014, will be followed by longer unmanned test missions. NASA hopes the Orion will carry Americans back to the Earth’s moon after 2020 and to the planet Mars after the year 2030.
NASA uses the Air Products liquid nitrogen to power the spacecraft while it uses the company’s helium for cooling various materials and in precision welding applications and for a variety of additional uses in hydrogen systems and flight fluid systems inside space vehicles.
Air Products – a sponsor of several Da Vinci Science Center exhibits, programs, and events – built plants in the 1950s capable of producing quantities of liquid oxygen and nitrogen necessary to support America’s emerging space program. Air Products won the competition to make a new rocket propellant – known today as liquid hydrogen – for the Air Force and later NASA later in that decade. The company also supplied liquid nitrogen for NASA Space Shuttles for more than a decade.