Lift Gas Cracker
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
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Small Business Information
11111 W. 8th Avenue, Unit A, Lakewood, CO, 80215
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
AbstractThe Lift Gas Cracker (LGC) is a new method for extending the duration of high-altitude scientific balloon flights and for enabling the launch of balloons from remote locations. The LGC produces balloon lift gas by catalytic reforming of methanol to generate hydrogen plus some carbon monoxide and/or carbon dioxide. Pioneer Astronautics prototyped and characterized an LGC system during Phase I. The LGC was demonstrated as a portable lift gas generator for launching meteorological and scientific balloons from remote locations where high-pressure helium is not available. Based on favorable mission analyses conducted during Phase I, the LGC as a method for extending the duration of high-altitude scientific balloon flights will be developed under Phase II. The LGC would operate with an auxiliary buoyancy-control balloon. The LGC produces lift gas by catalytic reforming of methanol at night. During the day, some of the lift gas (predominantly hydrogen) is burned with atmospheric air to produce water. The water ballast can be dropped or can be recycled to the LGC for steam reforming to generate lift gas the following night. These techniques can triple the duration of high-altitude flights compared to conventional methods of dropping ballast at night and venting gas during the day.
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