Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering

Department

Mechanical Engineering

Committee Chair

Sathya Gangadharan, Ph.D.

First Committee Member

James Sudermann

Second Committee Member

Brandon Marsell

Abstract

This research was carried out in collaboration with the United Launch Alliance (ULA), to advance an innovative Centaur-based on-orbit propellant storage and transfer system that takes advantage of rotational settling to simplify Fluid Management (FM), specifically enabling settled fluid transfer between two tanks and settled pressure control. This research consists of two specific objectives: (1) technique and process validation and (2) computational model development. In order to raise the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of this technology, the corresponding FM techniques and processes must be validated in a series of experimental tests, including: laboratory/ground testing, microgravity flight testing, suborbital flight testing, and orbital testing. Researchers from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) have joined with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Synchronized Position Hold Engage and Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) team to develop a prototype FM system for operations aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Testing of the integrated system in a representative environment will raise the FM system to TRL 6. The tests will demonstrate the FM system and provide unique data pertaining to the vehicle's rotational dynamics while undergoing fluid transfer operations. These data sets provide insight into the behavior and physical tendencies of the on-orbit refueling system. Furthermore, they provide a baseline for comparison against the data produced by various computational models; thus verifying the accuracy of the models output and validating the modeling approach. Once these preliminary models have been validated, the parameters defined by them will provide the basis of development for accurate simulations of full scale, on-orbit systems. The completion of this project and the models being developed will accelerate the commercialization of on-orbit propellant storage and transfer technologies as well as all in-space technologies that utilize or will utilize similar FM techniques and processes.

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