The Magnetic Phase Separator (MPS) orients liquid oxygen in a cryogenic tank to enable consistent single-phase liquid flow into engine feed lines in low gravity. The MPS integrates with propulsion systems to reduce tank slosh, prevent gas ingestion at high flow rates, and provide high expulsion efficiency. The paramagnetic properties of liquid oxygen (LOx) enable a series of strong permanent magnets or electromagnets to control the position of the liquid, allowing withdrawal in microgravity of gaseous or liquid products from their respective ports. Although magnetic propellant orientation methods have been proposed and investigated for cryogenic oxygen and hydrogen delivery in microgravity before, the MPS applies recent trends in high-strength permanent magnets, modeling, and a novel centrifuge test platform to facilitate the configuration and refinement of magnet geometry and controls over long test periods. The proposed test platform enables the use of LOx rather than non-cryogenic ferro-fluids that have been used in previous short-duration, microgravity aircraft paramagnetic orientation experiments.
Pioneer Astronautics will seek to demonstrate the feasibility of a magnetic control system for liquid oxygen through experiments progressing from ferromagnetic fluids to LOx on the bench and then on a centrifuge test stand. A parallel modeling effort will be undertaken to enhance and help guide the testing effort. Experiments will seek to accurately quantify the magnitude of the force exerted by a magnetic field on liquid oxygen so that requirements for delivery of specific flow rates of cryogen can be established under defined levels of void fractions, consistent with the solicitation requirements to achieve 10 gallons per minute flow rate at void fractions up to 30 percent.
The primary initial application of the Magnetic Phase Separator (MPS) is for NASA in support of space exploration. The MPS development is aimed toward integration in a cryogenic LOx delivery system for advanced propulsion. In addition, successful implementation of MPS for liquid oxygen handling has potential application to larger propellant systems including liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as well as the smaller scale life-support systems.
As commercial space flight advances, the MPS has potential applications for propulsion and life support related to privately funded ventures. A successful MPS may also have potential application as an alternative terrestrial LOx transfer method. Techniques developed during MPS might also be applied to generation of forces to replace mechanical components in actuators, pumps, and other hardware.