Saturated Fluid Pistonless Pump Technology Demonstrator

PI: Ryan Starkey, University of Colorado - Boulder

The objective of this project is to transform the challenging field of both in-space and launch vehicle liquid rocket propellant transfer by increasing the technology readiness level of pistonless pump technology. A high pressure liquid pump that can start reliably after years in space, and pump propellant that may have become saturated with pressurant, is game changing technology that can enable future deep space and interplanetary missions. Furthermore, a pump that can operate nominally and repeatedly in high vibration and high g-force environments, such as the rocket boost phase of a commercial suborbital vehicle, presents an opportunity to increase safety and reliability for these ventures.

Technology Areas (?)
  • TA01 Launch Propulsion Systems
Problem Statement

Pistonless pump technology developed by Flometrics, Inc., shows considerable promise in eliminating these roadblocks by pressurizing and pumping rocket propellants without the use of any rotating machinery or physical pistons. This is achieved through the use of two pressurized "pump chambers" that alternate pressurizing and draining of the propellant. Unlike traditional rocket turbo-pumps, which are extremely sensitive to high vibration environments and two-phase flow, the pistonless pump design features no moving parts aside from valves commonly used in microgravity space fluid applications.

Technology Maturation

An industry-university partnership has been created to develop a full capability pistonless pump test apparatus for testing on a commercial suborbital vehicle. The proposed working fluid will be a simulated cryogen, carbonated water, which exhibits many of the difficulties encountered when pumping a cryogenic propellant near saturation, without problems associated with safety.

Technology Details

  • Selection Date
    NRA-1-APP-A (Jul 2012)
  • Program Status
  • Current TRL (?)
    TRL 3
    Successful FOP Flights
  • 0 sRLV

Development Team

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