First-Time and Frequent-Flying Payloads Benefit from Recent Parabolic Demonstrations

Cryogenic propellant chill-down experiments from the University of Florida have accumulated data over multiple parabolic flight campaigns. Others flew for the first time on ZERO-G’s recent flights. (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — From November 13 to 16, Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE modified 727 completed its latest parabolic research flight campaign for Flight Opportunities. Seven NASA-supported technology payloads were demonstrated during the campaign’s four flights.

For experiments like Optimal Chill-down Methods for Cryogenic Propellant Tanks from the University of Florida (UF), the periods of microgravity provided by parabolic demonstrations have been instrumental to the technology development path over several flight campaigns.

“Since 2015, we’ve had nine parabolic flights supported by Flight Opportunities,” said principal investigator (PI) Jacob Chung, PhD. “This has helped us understand the cryogenic storage tank and transfer line chill-down requirements needed for efficient fuel transfer from a fuel depot in low-Earth orbit to a spacecraft’s fuel tank.”

Chung explained that effective chill-down is critical, because cryogen that vaporizes is no longer viable. Chung’s latest experiment will help his team identify the best methods for chill-down of the fuel storage tank itself, and ultimately help enable long-duration exploration missions.

For other researchers, the recent flights were a first foray into the learning that microgravity can provide.

“This payload represents my lab’s very first attempt to do experiments in low gravity, so we were extremely excited to fly with a team of five undergraduates who designed and built the apparatus,” said North Carolina State University’s Karen Daniels, PhD.

Daniels is the PI for the EMPANADA experiment, which stands for ‘Ejecta-Minimizing Protocols for Applications Needing Anchoring for Digging on Asteroids.’ As its name would suggest, the experiment aims to improve operations for future exploration of small asteroids and planetary bodies.

“We’ll be able to use the results from these flights to compare with laboratory experiments done on Earth’s surface,” noted Daniels. “And then we can take that learning and apply it to our next round of experiments.”

Other Flight Opportunities-supported payloads onboard the recent flights were:

PRIME-4.0: Miniaturized and Reusable Asteroid Regolith Microgravity Experiment for Suborbital and Orbital Use
PI: Josh Colwell, University of Central Florida

Gravity Effects on Flow Boiling Heat Transfer Using Temperature Sensitive Paints in Preparation for an ISS Flight Experiment
PI: Jungho Kim, University of Maryland-College Park

Microgravity Propellant Gauging Using Modal Analysis: Phase III
PI: Kevin Crosby, Carthage College

Lightweight Strain-Energy Deployed Spacecraft Booms
PI: Mark Pankow; North Carolina State University

Small-Sat Propellant Management Technology
PI: Seven Collicott; Purdue University