Low-Cost Pulse Tube Liquefier for In-Situ Resource Utilization
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NASA’s strategy for continued exploration of Mars is based on the concept of using Martian resources to supplement materials brought from earth. This in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) program allows dramatic reduction on the mass of materials that must be transported from the Earth, and is an enabling technology for a manned mission to Mars. A key part of the ISRU strategy is to use the Martian atmosphere along with hydrogen feedstock and chemical reactors brought from earth to produce oxygen and a hydrocarbon as rocket fuel for the return trip to Earth.
Any oxygen produced on Mars will need to be stored for months to years as sufficient reserve is built up. The overall weight of the storage system is lower for liquid oxygen than pressurized gas, so a liquefier is required. We are developing a low-cost oxygen liquefier for in-situ resource utilization. The design point for this cooler is 20 W at 89 K rejecting to 245 K.
The liquefier uses a pulse tube cryocooler, with a linear, opposed pressure wave generator. The pulse tube is being designed for compactness and ease of integration with the balance of the system. The first generation cryocooler has been built and is currently being tested. Performance predictions for this cryocooler are presented.
KeywordsPulse Tube Martian Atmosphere Rocket Propellant Manned Mission Cold Head
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