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Center Independent Research & Development: KSC IRAD

Fluid Dynamics with Cryogenic Fluid Transfer in Space

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

The main objective for this project is to build an accurate line chill-down database under an actual space microgravity condition with a duration long enough to cover the complete chill down characteristics of a fluid transfer line. The secondary objective is to demonstrate a non-intrusive method to determine a tank fill level based on vibration modes from the NASA Kennedy Space Center Lead Zirconium Titanate (PZT) system. 

During chilldown of cryogenic fluid tanks and lines, the interface between the liquid and vapor rapidly changes. Understanding these rapid changes is key to understanding the thermal efficiencies of cryogenic fluid transfer in microgravity. In order to demonstrate transfer line chilldown, you must drain the storage tank. Draining a fluid storage tank in microgravity is a complex task that can be solved with elegant surface tension features inside the tank. Draining a tank during a transfer also presents opportunities for secondary data gathering on determining the fill level of the tank.

Kennedy Space Center (KSC) researchers have developed a unique method to determine a tank fill level based on the tank’s response to vibration input using PZT sensors/ actuators. This can also yield information on the health of the tank. It has been demonstrated in microgravity using water for short durations produced by parabolic aircraft flights. This demonstration will increase its applicability to cryogenic fluids and rapid draining of tanks.

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