The Cryogenic Test Laboratory (CTL) at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) has designed, fabricated, and installed a modular, rapid propellant-loading system to simulate rapid loading of a launch-vehicle composite or standard cryogenic tank. The system will also function as a cryogenic testbed for testing and validating cryogenic innovations and ground support equipment (GSE) components. The modular skid-mounted system is capable of flow rates of liquid nitrogen from 1 to 900 gpm (≈3.8 to 3,400 L/min), of pressures from ambient to 225 psig (≈1.5 MPa), and of temperatures to –320 °F (≈–195 °C). The system can be easily validated to flow liquid oxygen at a different location, and could be easily scaled to any particular vehicle interface requirements.

This innovation is the first phase of development of a smart Simulated Rapid Propellant Loading (SRPL) system that can be used at multiple sites for servicing multiple vehicle configurations with varying interface flow, temperature, and pressure requirements. The SRPL system can accommodate cryogenic components from ¼ to 8 in. (≈0.6 to 20 cm) and larger, and a variety of pneumatic component types and sizes. Temperature, pressure, flow, quality, and a variety of other sensors are also incorporated into the propellant system design along with the capability to adjust for the testing of a multitude of sensor types and sizes.

The system has three modules (skids) that can be placed at any launch vehicle site (or mobile), and can be connected with virtually any length of pipe required for a complete propellant loading system. The modules include a storage area pump skid (located near the storage tank and a dump basin), a valve control skid (located on or near the launch table to control flow to the vehicle, and to return to the tank or dump basin), and a vehicle interface skid (located at the vehicle). The skids are fully instrumented with pressure, temperature, flow, motor, pump controls, and data acquisition systems, and can be controlled from a control room, or locally from a PDA (personal digital assistant) or tablet PC.

This work was done by Walter Hatfield, Sr. and Kevin Jumper of ASRC Aerospace Corp. for Kennedy Space Center. KSC-13460

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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