More Than a Roofing System: Polyurethane Foam for Space Shuttles

Anyone who has ever heard about polyurethane foam may be familiar with its many uses, as far as roofing and insulation purposes are concerned. The solution works to seal homes, buildings, and other establishments that require protection from the outdoors and prevent leaks.

If you didn’t know, polyurethane foam isn’t just used for roofing as it can cater to much bigger applications, such as for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s projects. Since NASA is known globally for its astronomical missions, its space shuttles require robust protection to ensure each trip to outer space and back becomes a success.

NASA ended up developing its version of polyurethane foam to properly secure and provide insulation for their space shuttles’ external fuel tank and maintain its right temperature. If you want to know more valuable benefits of polyurethane that helped pave the way for planetary discoveries, keep reading below.

How NASA Applies Polyurethane Foam for Space Shuttles

With NASA’s desire to invent a material to help keep their rocket fuel tank adequately protected, covered, and insulated, they created their version of polyurethane foam. They made the solution using a combination of polyols that offer durable, lightweight, and insulation properties.

Since a space shuttle’s tank must always be at -423 degrees Fahrenheit, the polyurethane that other manufacturers previously invented simply wasn’t enough. That’s why NASA took the matter into their own hands and upgraded it to meet their needs.

Using Polyurethane Foam to Insulate a Shuttle’s Fuel Tank

Every space shuttle has a fuel tank, and it serves as one of the most prominent parts of the shuttle. The tanks are comprised of 1/8” thick aluminum material and carry over 395,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen. Unfortunately, astronauts cannot reuse the fuel tanks, as they need to dispose of them after each mission. 

A 1” layer of polyurethane foam is applied onto the fuel tank to improve its longevity throughout the expedition and maintain proper insulation. Since the foam is a material that’s already extremely lightweight, it doesn’t add much to the weight of the fuel tank.

Before the foam is applied over the tank, NASA uses unique solutions to sanitize the surface to ensure the foam attaches correctly. It is a closed-cell foam that comprises millions of little bubbles that work to seal the surface and prevent vapor from escaping. As a result, the seal it builds eliminates air infiltration from outside to keep the hydrogen untouched inside the tank.

Applying Polyurethane Foam in Day-to-Day Scenarios

Thanks to polyurethane foam’s lightweight, robust, insulating, and water-proof qualities, it became so successful that people found a way to incorporate it into their daily routines. 

At present, the innovative foam is used on advanced refrigerator appliances for added insulation. In addition, homeowners and businesses learned to use polyurethane foam to increase the protection and insulation of their roofing, especially during the warmer seasons. It’s a valuable solution to keep the indoor air inside while preventing outdoor air from invading your space. 

If you live in an area that experiences more cold weather than warm, it will be difficult to utilize polyurethane foam—but it isn’t impossible. During times like it, you can opt for artificial methods to ensure you still get the benefits of using SPF roofing to provide you the shelter you need.


Besides a new and improved polyurethane foam, NASA is well-known for many other innovations, including memory foams, water filters, invisible braces, and scratch-resistant glasses. The invention they developed involving the foam is what people continue to rely on today to acquire mundane solutions comprising insulation for refrigeration and roofing of plenty of homes and enterprises.

Are you looking to hire a professional spray polyurethane foam roofing company in Walnut Creek, CA? American Foam Experts is an SPF roofer that focuses on providing insulation solutions for homes and businesses to help reduce your energy bills. Get in touch with us today to receive a quote!