Basic Study on Thermodynamic Vent System in Propulsion System for Future Spacecraft


In planned planetary explorations, cryogenic liquids such as liquid hydrogen (LH2), liquid oxygen (LOX), and liquefied natural gases (LNG) are used as fuel and oxidants in the propulsion systems of spacecraft. Such explorations require long-term storage for those cryogens, as well as heat insulation technology to protect the heat from the outside and pressure control technology to suppress rises in pressure due to evaporation gas in the propellant tank. However, current vent systems that discharge the evaporated gas to the outside of the spacecraft are suboptimal, for the propellant’s uncertain position in the tank when spacecraft operate in microgravity environments causes the significant loss of propellant during venting. In response, we examined a method using jet mixing in a thermodynamic vent system (TVS) that adjusts the tank pressure by cooling the inside of the tank and reducing boil-off gas. To that end, thermal and fluid analyses were conducted to design a test tank system before the ground verification test of the TVS using liquid nitrogen (LN2) as the simulated cryogen. To evaluate our results, we compared experimental and numerical results regarding the formation of thermal stratification. The experimentally performed verification of the TVS function revealed that jet mixing can lower the liquid’s temperature in the tank after the experimental apparatus was modified to supply a stable subcooled mixing jet.

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Our research summarizes the results of the study titled “Development of Innovative Thermal Management Technology to Realize Long-Term Storage of Cryogenic Propellant” conducted as part of the strategic basic development research of the Space Engineering Committee in 2018.

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Correspondence to Ryoji Imai.

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This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Multiphase Fluid Dynamics in Microgravity

Guest Editors: Tatyana P. Lyubimova, Jian-Fu Zhao

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Imai, R., Nishida, K., Kawanami, O. et al. Basic Study on Thermodynamic Vent System in Propulsion System for Future Spacecraft. Microgravity Sci. Technol. 32, 339–348 (2020).

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  • Cryogenic fluid
  • Thermodynamic vent system
  • Microgravity
  • Thermal stratification
  • Computational fluid dynamics