Microgravity Testing of a Large-Scale Liquid Acquisition Device for Cryogenic Fluid Management

PI: Kevin Supak, Steve Green (Co-I), Southwest Research Institute - San Antonio

Sustainable cislunar development requires improved methods for cryogenic fluid management, particularly for removing vapor bubbles. SwRI’s Large-Scale Liquid Acquisition Device (LAD) addresses this need by employing a tapered channel that passively pumps out internally generated vapor bubbles. Rather than relying on capillary force (a cornerstone of current technology), the LAD employs surface tension force to remove bubbles, eliminating costly thrusting maneuvers or active separation systems. If successful, the LAD would substantially improve the efficiency and reliability of critical cryogenic transfer processes.

This work is a continuation of previous flight testing under T0202.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA02 In-Space Propulsion Technologies
Problem Statement

Improvement of cryogenic fluid storage and transfer technology for use in fuel depots under reduced gravity is required for sustainable cislunar development. Current technology relies on the capillary force within LAD screen channels to capture and deliver liquid only to the tank outlet. A more efficient design is needed to reliably remove internally generated vapor bubbles for these critical transfer processes. Suborbital testing will evaluate bubble movement in large-scale channels first at different axial locations within the LAD design and then using a realistic screen material for two different channel widths.

Technology Maturation

This concept has already achieved TRL 4 through ground testing. A successful flight test effort is expected to provide critical data on scaling parameters used in sizing LADs in tanks for cislunar fuel depots. The suborbital flight testing of a larger scale design of the tapered screen channel in a representative long-duration microgravity environment would advance the TRL to 6.

Future Customers

Long-term cryogenic storage and transfer
In-space propulsion systems
Satellite refueling
Thermal/Fluid systems requiring phase separation

Flight Experiment Objectives


Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    TechFlights19 (Oct 2019)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 sRLV

Development Team

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