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Cryogenic Fluid Management


Scope Title:

Cryogenic Fluid Management (CFM)

Scope Description:

This subtopic seeks technologies related to cryogenic propellant (e.g., hydrogen, oxygen, methane) storage and transfer to support NASA's space exploration goals. This includes a wide range of applications, scales, and environments consistent with future NASA missions. Such missions include, but are not limited to, upper stages, ascent and descent stages, refueling elements or aggregation stages, nuclear thermal propulsion, and in situ resource utilization (ISRU).

This subtopic solicits proposals in the following areas, in order of priority:

  1. Cryogenic flight weight valves (minimum Cv >50, goal to Cv of ~100) for low-pressure (<50 psi) liquid oxygen/methane/hydrogen with low internal (~10 sccm, goal of <1 sccm) and external (<1 sccm) leakage over multiple cycles (>100 cycles with a goal of 5,000 cycles) to maximize the lifetime of the valve. Proposals can include metallic or nonmetallic sealing elements. Proposals are encouraged, but not required, to consider additive manufacturing and/or compatibility with hypergolic propellants. If compatible with hypergolic propellants, valve should have minimum Cv <1.0, goal to Cv of ~15 for low-pressure (<250 psi), low internal (~1x10-3 sccs, goal of <1x10-4 sccs) and external (<1x10-3 sccs) leakage over multiple cycles (>100 cycles with a goal of 5,000 cycles). Proposals should address the whole valve subsystem, including actuation and actuation mechanisms, with the goal of minimizing mass in Phase II. Phase I deliverable should be proof of concept of the valve with test data using liquid nitrogen, while the Phase II deliverable should be the valve.
  2. Development of liquid hydrogen compatible composite tanks for reusable systems such as spacecraft, surface systems, and hydrogen aircraft for long-duration storage of liquid hydrogen. Development efforts should focus on liquid hydrogen compatibility, including minimization of permeation through the tank (<1x10-3 sccm/m2 of tank), capable of surviving >10,000 thermal cycles between 20 and 300 K, and >5,000 pressure cycles at cryogenic temperatures. Maximum expected operating pressures for tanks range from 25 to 50 psid. The inclusion of vacuum-jacketed composite tanks with thermal insulation capability included could also be considered. The vacuum jacket/insulation portion of the tank should be capable of maintaining vacuum pressures less than 10 millitorr for durations of several days with re-evacuation taking less than an hour. Key performance parameters such as mass compared to metallic tank and gravimetric index should be tracked to demonstrate tank benefits. Phase I efforts should provide initial material characterization for compatibility with hydrogen along with analysis demonstrating the thermal and pressure cycle capability of the tank. Phase II efforts should include tank characterization using liquid hydrogen.
  3. Liquid hydrogen pumps for high pressure ratio applications. Two classes of pumps are envisioned: tank-mounted, electrically powered booster pumps; and high-pressure pumps that may be driven by a motor or engine shaft. The booster class of pumps will provide sufficient head to prevent cavitation in the high-pressure pump, as well as potentially be used to supply LH2 to a heat exchanger for vaporization to provide pressurant gas in the onboard hydrogen tank during operations. A single booster pump should be capable of delivering LH2 initially saturated at 20 psia at a pressure rise of not less than 25 psid and not more than 45 psid and a rate of 0.6 kg/s. The high-pressure pumps will receive subcooled LH2 at not less than 44 psia and provide an increase in pressure at a ratio of not less than 15:1, with a goal of 20:1, at a flow rate of 0.6 kg/s. Goals for pump life, not to be verified as a part of this effort, are 7,500 hr and 3,000 start/stop cycles. Phase I efforts should provide preliminary pump design and analysis including estimated performance, mass, power, and life for the concept. Phase II efforts should include final design, build, and performance test of a prototype with liquid hydrogen. If a single offeror desires to propose for both classes of pump, a separate proposal should be submitted for each pump class.

Expected TRL or TRL Range at completion of the Project: 2 to 4

Primary Technology Taxonomy:

  • Level 1 14 Thermal Management Systems
  • Level 2 14.1 Cryogenic Systems

Desired Deliverables of Phase I and Phase II:

  • Hardware
  • Prototype
  • Research

Desired Deliverables Description:

Phase I proposals should at minimum deliver proof of the concept, including some sort of testing or physical demonstration, not just a paper study. Phase II proposals should provide component validation in a laboratory environment, preferably with hardware deliverable to NASA. 

State of the Art and Critical Gaps:

CFM is a crosscutting technology suite that supports multiple forms of propulsion systems (nuclear and chemical), including storage, transfer, and gauging, as well as liquefaction of ISRU-produced propellants. The Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) has identified that CFM technologies are vital to NASA's exploration plans for multiple architectures, whether hydrogen/oxygen or methane/oxygen systems, including chemical propulsion and nuclear thermal propulsion. Several recent Phase II projects have resulted from CFM subtopics, most notably for cryocoolers, cryocooler electronics, liquid acquisition devices, phase separators, broad area cooling, and composite tanks.

Relevance / Science Traceability:

STMD has identified CFM as a key capability within its "Go" thrust that enables multiple outcomes, including Human Earth-to-Mars Transportation Systems and Reusable, Safe Launch and In-Space Propulsion Systems. Additionally, the CFM activities support the In-Situ Propellant and Consumable capability within the “Live” thrust.

STMD strives to provide the technologies that are needed to enable exploration of the solar system, both manned and unmanned systems; CFM is a key technology to enable exploration. For both liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen/liquid methane systems, CFM will be required to store propellant for up to 5 years in various orbital environments. Transfer will also be required, whether to engines or other tanks (e.g., depot/aggregation), to enable the use of cryogenic propellants that have been stored. In conjunction with ISRU, oxygen will have to be produced, liquefied, and stored; liquefaction and storage are both CFM functions for the surface of the Moon or Mars. ISRU and CFM liquefaction drastically reduces the amount of mass that has to be landed.


No references for this subtopic.

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