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Testing of a Spray-Bar Zero Gravity Cryogenic Vent System for Upper StagesThe capability to vent in zero gravity without resettling is a fundamental technology need that involves practically all uses of subcritical cryogenics in space. Venting without resettling would extend cryogenic orbital transfer vehicle capabilities. However, the lack of definition regarding liquid/ullage orientation coupled with the somewhat random nature of the thermal stratification and resulting pressure rise rates, lead to significant technical challenges. Typically a zero gravity vent concept, termed a thermodynamic vent system (TVS), consists of a tank mixer to destratify the propellant, combined with a Joule- Thomson (J-T) valve to extract then-nal energy from the propellant. In a cooperative effort, Marshall Space Flight Center's (MSFC's) Multipurpose Hydrogen Test Bed (N4HTB) was used to test a unique "spray bar" TVS system developed by Boeing. A schematic of this system is included in Figure 1. The system consists of a recirculation pump, a parallel flow concentric tube, heat exchanger, and a spray bar positioned close to the longitudinal axis of the tank. In the mixing mode, the recirculation pump withdraws liquid from the tank and sprays it radially into the tank liquid, ullage, and exposed tank surfaces. When energy extraction is required, a small portion of the recirculated liquid is passed sequentially through the J-T expansion valve, the spray bar heat exchanger element, and is vented overboard. The vented vapor cools the circulated bulk fluid, thereby removing thermal energy and reducing tank pressure. Figure 2 is a plot of ullage pressure (P4) and liquid vapor pressure (PSAI) versus time. The pump operates alone, cycling on and off, to destratify the tank liquid and ullage until the liquid vapor pressure reaches the lower set point. At that point, the J-T valve begins to cycle on and off with the pump. Thus, for short duration missions, only the mixer may operate, thus minimizing or even eliminating boil-off losses. The primary advantage of the spray bar configuration is that pressure reduction is achieved independent of liquid and vapor location, thereby enhancing the applicability of normal gravity test data to zero gravity conditions. The in-tank components are minimized with the proposed TVS design. Because the recirculation pump is external to the tank, no electrical power penetration of the tank is required for pump or valve operation. This is especially desirable for L02 tanks since the presence of an electrical ignition source in oxygen represents a critical failure mode. Also, since the critical components (pump, motor, valve, orifice) are external to the tank, system checkout and ground servicing/replacement are easier. For zero-g operation, component replacement external to the tank may be a significant benefit. In addition to satisfying the zero g TVS design objectives, the TVS concept tested offers additional benefits to the integrated subcritical cryogenic storage and launch system.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Lak, Tibor (Boeing Aerospace Co. Seattle, WA United States)
Flachbart, Robin (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Nguyen, Han (Boeing Aerospace Co. Seattle, WA United States)
Martin, James (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1999
Subject Category
Materials Processing
Meeting Information
Joint Propulsion(Los Angeles, CA)
Distribution Limits