On-orbit transfer of gaseous propellant is a critical technology for extending the useful life of satellites. A key component needed for on-orbit refueling is a compressor that can efficiently move gas from a resupply vessel to the propellant tank on board a satellite. High efficiency requires a very high pressure ratio, and operation on orbit requires that the compressor be compact, lightweight, and highly reliable. We propose to develop a miniature, high pressure ratio compressor that meets these requirements. Our technology can efficiently transfer gas to a high-pressure receiver tank using a highly reliable compression mechanism. In Phase I, we will prove feasibility through demonstration testing of key components and materials, analysis and assessment of key design tradeoffs, detailed conceptual design, and predictions of performance. In Phase II, we will build and demonstrate a full-size, flight-like prototype compressor.
The primary NASA application will be to replenish gaseous propellant for ion drives used by orbiting satellites. Creare’s compressor is compact, lightweight, and low power. Its high pressure ratio will enable the most efficient use of resupply gas. It has a modular configuration that can be scaled to a range of refueling applications.
Commercial spacecraft operators face the same need for on-orbit propellant resupply as NASA. Creare’s compressor will enable commercial spacecraft operators to extend the lifetime of their orbiting spacecraft.