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High-Efficiency, Low-Volume, Space-Qualified Cryogenic-Coolers


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Space Platforms 

OBJECTIVE: Seeking innovative high-efficiency, low-volume, space-qualified cryo-coolers. 

DESCRIPTION: This topic focuses on enabling next generation sensor systems by improving cooler performance beyond the current state-of-the-art to support future space missions. Cooling is required to decrease detector noise and increase detector sensitivity by maintaining the detector at a reduced operating temperature. However, current coolers have larger volume and power requirements than desired for next generation space-based sensor payload concepts. This topic seeks innovative coolers with increased efficiency and reduced size for space-based payloads operating in low earth orbit. Goals for the topic are as follows (in order of priority): 1. Heat lift of more than 2W for 20W spacecraft power 2. Cooling to 110K with 300K reject temperature 3. Sizes less than 500 cc including space-qualified electronics, component shielding, and vibration control (if applicable) 4. High reliability and long lifetime with specified performance in low earth orbit 5. Low vibration and/or vibration control (included in volume budget) This topic does not seek a particular cooling approach but solicits technical solutions for meeting the topic goals. 

PHASE I: Present a preliminary design of the prototype cooler to include a development plan and schedule, performance models, and identified risks with mitigation plan. The preliminary design should describe options for interfacing the cooler with a notional sensor payload and spacecraft bus. Risk-reduction experiments and proof-of-concept demonstrations are highly encouraged. 

PHASE II: Present a detailed design of the prototype cooler. Fabricate a prototype unit and test performance in representative environments. Test results should anchor models for predicting lifetime performance in the operating environment. Provide comparisons between expected and measured performance and adjustments made to the design based on lessons learned. 

PHASE III: Verify the Phase II demonstration technology is economically viable. Develop and execute a plan to market and manufacture the technology. Assist the government in transitioning the cooler for system integration and testing. 


1: Pettyjohn. 2012. "Future Trends of AFRL Cooler Research." AIP Conference Proceedings 1434, p 121.

2:  Pettyjohn. 2010. "Coolers for Microsatellite Military Applications." Coolers 16, edited by Miller and Ross, Jr. Boulder, Colorado, p 709-713.

3:  Roush. 2010. "USAF Space Sensing Cryogenic Considerations." AIP Conference Proceedings 1218, p 355.


KEYWORDS: Cooler, Space, Cyrocooler, Cryogenic 

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