Propellant Mass Gauging in Gateway Architecture Vehicles

PI: Kevin Crosby, Carthage College, Rudy Werlink (Co-I), NASA/Kennedy Space Center

Carthage College’s Propellant Mass Gauging in Gateway Architecture Vehicles experiment includes new spectral density (SDM) and point sensor methods (PSM)—extensions of its modal propellant gauging (MPG) process—that support fluid mass measurement under varying pressures. These new approaches to propellant gauging do not rely on instantaneous measurement of modal frequencies as a proxy for contained mass. They may be more reliable methods of gauging during high-rate tank drains under acceleration and during propellant transfer, engine burns, and other dynamic mission phases.

This work is a continuation of previous flight testing under T0123, T0147, T0160, and T0191.

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

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft as well as commercial partners have a need for a low-gravity propellant mass gauging concept that provides robust mass measurements during dynamic events that involve changes in tank pressure, such as engine burns. The researchers will use parabolic flights to validate MPG/PSM during continuous drain operations in microgravity, which is expected to provide initial data on the method’s sensitivity bounds during high-rate drain. A vertical-takeoff and vertical-landing suborbital flight will seek to validate the SDM for 0-g settled gauging, with a goal of demonstrating independence from tank pressure, which affects thin-wall vessels.

Technology Maturation

The MPG technology is currently at TRL 5, while the SDM and PSM have been validated in 1-g laboratory testing on flight hardware for both Earth-storable and cryogenic propellants. The successful completion of the test program will establish a new low-gravity capability of modal propellant gauging: the ability to meet NASA goals of in-space propellant mass gauging during propellant transfer, engine burns, and other dynamic mission phases in which tank pressure may be changing.

Future Customers

NASA missions, notably Gateway, Orion and the SLS rocket
Human space exploration missions
Commercial and military satellite providers
Launch services providers
Developers of on-orbit fuel depots

Technology Details

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

Development Team

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