Orbital refueling of cryogenic propellants is a key enabling technology that will extend the usable life of spacecraft around Earth and facilitate the next generation of advanced exploration missions. Propellant management on orbit requires advanced propellant tanks, liquid acquisition devices, propellant transfer pumps, space-rated valves, and other subcomponents compatible with common propellants and designed for use at cryogenic temperatures. We propose to help meet this need by developing a space-rated valve for cryogenic propellants. Our valve uses a floating seal to provide low flow restriction without the bulky housing typically required of valves with large orifices. In Phase I, we will complete detailed design of the valve and actuator, fabricate a prototype valve, and leverage existing Creare facilities to test flow and leakage with liquid nitrogen. In Phase II, we will update our valve design using lessons learned, integrate it with our space-rated actuator, and conduct valve testing under relevant operating conditions. At the end of Phase II, we will have a complete valve assembly with demonstrated performance, ready for spaceflight qualification and mission use.
Our cryogenic valve is intended to operate in propellant depots located on orbit, as well as spacecraft designed to interface with these depots. We expect NASA will leverage our valve in both systems. Although designed for use in space, it is possible our valves will also become a part of ground-based cryogenic fuel production, storage, and transfer facilities supporting the SLS and other launch systems.
Commercial aerospace companies are actively pursuing orbital propellant management systems to realize economic advantages of refueling on orbit. Our valve will be an attractive component for spacecraft and fuel depot subsystems, especially if they seek to share a common interface with NASA systems. It may also be used in ground-based propellant management systems to support launch operations.