Tech Briefs

Thermodynamic Vent System for an On-Orbit Cryogenic Reaction Control Engine

A report discusses a cryogenic reaction control system (RCS) that integrates a Joule-Thompson (JT) device (expansion valve) and thermodynamic vent system (TVS) with a cryogenic distribution system to allow fine control of the propellant quality (subcooled liquid) during operation of the device. It enables zero-venting when coupled with an RCS engine. The proper attachment locations and sizing of the orifice are required with the propellant distribution line to facilitate line conditioning. During operations, system instrumentation was strategically installed along the distribution/TVS line assembly, and temperature control bands were identified.

A sub-scale run tank, full-scale distribution line, open-loop TVS, and a combination of procured and custom-fabricated cryogenic components were used in the cryogenic RCS build-up. Simulated onorbit activation and thruster firing profiles were performed to quantify system heat gain and evaluate the TVS’s capability to maintain the required propellant conditions at the inlet to the engine valves. Test data determined that a small control valve, such as a piezoelectric, is optimal to provide continuously the required thermal control. The data obtained from testing has also assisted with the development of fluid and thermal models of an RCS to refine integrated cryogenic propulsion system designs.

This system allows a liquid oxygenbased main propulsion and reaction control system for a spacecraft, which improves performance, safety, and cost over conventional hypergolic systems due to higher performance, use of nontoxic propellants, potential for integration with life support and power subsystems, and compatibility with in-situ produced propellants.

This work was done by Eric A. Hurlbert, Kris A. Romig, Rafael Jimenez, and Sam Flores of Johnson Space Center. MSC-24543-1

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).

Thermodynamic Vent System for an On-Orbit Cryogenic Reaction Control Engine (reference MSC-24543-1) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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