Reduced Gravity Experiments to Advance CFD Boiling Models for Cryogenic Fluid Management Systems

PI: Emilio Baglietto, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Vineet Ahuja (Co-I), Combustion Research and Flow Technology Inc.

The Reduced Gravity Experiments to Advance Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)Boiling Models for Cryogenic Fluid Management Systems experiment aims to develop predictive simulations of boiling heat transfer. Over three parabolic flights, the experiments will leverage novel imaging techniques developed at MIT that include backlit shadowgraphy and light-emitting diode (LED) internal reflection combined with a transparent electrically conductive oxide heater. Data collected will support the development of CFD models for propellant boil-off, chilldown times, and the sizing and design of propellant systems for microgravity environments.

Technology Areas (?)
  • NA
Problem Statement

Phase change in cryogenic propellants is inevitable and its accurate modeling is critical for future long-duration, crewed space missions. Mission designers currently lack robust, validated CFD models of cryogenic fluid storage or transfer in reduced gravity that would offer predictive simulations of boiling heat transfer.Poor boiling models lead to higher margins in launch propellant and safety considerations, leading both to higher launch mass and cost.Simulations like this would support the optimal design of propellant systems.

Technology Maturation

MIT has already demonstrated the feasibility of leveraging backlit shadowgraphy and total internal reflection (TIR)to visualize and measure fundamental boiling parameters such as nucleation site densities, bubble departure diameters,as well as frequencies and characteristics of the microlayers and bubble footprints in a lab environment. Parabolic flight tests will demonstrate the cryogenic fuel boiloff simulation in microgravity, maturing the technology to TRL 6.

Future Customers

•Future NASA missions, including Artemis
•Commercial space exploration missions
•Lunar propellant transfer stations

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    TechFlights20 (Sep 2020)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 Parabolic

Development Team

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