Miniature propulsion systems have been an area of significant investment over recent years with increased adoption of CubeSat and SmallSat. However, miniature propulsion systems require components that are much smaller than commonly available in industry. Innovators at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center have developed the Miniature Separable Fill and Drain Valve, a manually operated, two-part valve design for CubeSat propulsion applications.
This new valve design allows loading and draining of fluid while minimizing the flown component size and weight. It consists of two halves (ground and flight). The flight half is attached to the vehicle (i.e., CubeSat) and the ground half can be inserted into the vehicle in the same port as the flight half, connecting the two halves together. In normal state, the flight half seals the flow path. When the ground half is connected, the flow path is opened, allowing connected ground support equipment to supply fluid through the valve.
The valve is manually operated. There are redundant seals to eliminate leakage around the valve, including NASA's previously patented Low-Cost, Long Lasting Valve Seal design on the flight half. This eliminates the need for a swaged assembly process and the additional hardware and equipment that are typically required in conventional, elastomeric valve seat installations.
The design also includes a cap for the flight half to ensure there is no leakage in flight configuration. Besides miniature spacecraft propulsion systems, the valve could also have applications in the industrial processing industry where low flow devices are commonly used. The design is also scalable to larger applications where the removal of the actuation device is needed.