Paragon Selected for 3 NASA Small Business Awards

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA selected three projects from Paragon Space Development Corporation of Tucson, Arizona for funding in its recent round of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I awards. Each contract is worth a maximum of $125,000 over six months.

Paragon’s Separation Technology of On-Orbit Liquid and Excrement (STOOLE) project is pretty much what it sounds like: an improved system for recycling human waste in space.

“This technology uses low grade heat and low-power air motivation and has met NASA’s goal for 98% water recovery from liquid waste,” according to the proposal summary.

“While NASA has stated the system does not need to purify the water, STOOLE uses chemically selective membranes to limit concern for undesirable constituents in the product vapor, allowing it to be condensed and processed locally or by the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS),” the document added.

NASA also selected Paragon for an award to develop an inflatable cryogenic  structure called the ellipsoidal propellant tank (EPT). The company said the tank will provide up to 30 percent mass savings compared with existing composite systems.

“The proposed system is applicable to propellant tanks and for future NASA exploration missions, launch systems, propellant depot systems, and orbital or planetary systems,” the proposal summary stated. “The Ellipsoidal Pressure Tank (EPT) is completely scalable and deterministic allowing it to apply to very small or extremely large (10s meters) applications.”

The third SBIR project involves the development of the smart passively articulating high-turndown radiator (SPAHR) for use in crewed spacecraft.

“This very high turn down [radiator] enables human exploration well beyond our present capabilities and enables single-loop thermal control of a crewed vehicle with a non-toxic fluid, which reduces TCS launch mass by 25% or more due in large part by eliminating the need for the external pump package,” Paragon said.

Summaries of the proposals follow.


Separation Technology of On-Orbit Liquid and Excrement (STOOLE)
Subtopic Title: Spacecraft Solid Waste Management

Principal Investigator
Brittany Zimmerman

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) :
Begin: 2
End: 4

Technical Abstract

The Paragon Space Development (Paragon) Separation Technology of On-Orbit Liquid and Excrement (STOOLE) extends our successful, NASA and Boeing Brine Processor Assembly (BPA), and Humidity Control System (HCS) to create a feces and mixed waste water recovery system.

This technology uses low grade heat and low-power air motivation and has met NASA’s goal for 98% water recovery from liquid waste. While NASA has stated the system does not need to purify the water, STOOLE uses chemically selective membranes to limit concern for undesirable constituents in the product vapor, allowing it to be condensed and processed locally or by the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS).

STOOLE replaces the expendable TKO canister with a reusable system with functional elements isolated from the solid waste to ensure long duration, low cost operation. The STOOLE product is anticipated to be very low in free water and our Phase I study includes an investigation into solid product upcycling though torridification, use as 3D printing filler, or filler in a fused polymer product.

Potential NASA Applications

STOOLE works from 0g to >1g as direct replacement for the TKO canister and extracts pure water vapor from solid waste. STOOLE applies to any NASA crewed system including ISS, Lunar Gateway, future orbital, Lunar and Martian systems, and possible as an upgrade to Orion or attached habitat systems for longer duration transits. STOOLE may also be applicable to other NASA facilities such as the NASA Aquarius Reef Base.

Potential Non-NASA Applications

STOOLE is a highly scalable option for commercial, civil, and defense operations in austere environments. STOOLE applies anywhere the reuse of water and human waste containment are important including 1,000s of vessels (cruise ships, Littoral Combat Ships, Submarines), DoD facilities, disaster relief systems, oil-rigs, and remote mining, oil & gas, and construction projects.

Duration: 6 months


Ellipsoidal Propellant Tank (EPT)
Subtopic Title: Cryogenic Fluid Management

Principal Investigator
Javier Lopez

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) :
Begin: 2
End: 4

Technical Abstract

Paragon proposes an Ellipsoidal Propellant Tank (EPT) inflatable cryogenic tank structure that will provide up to 30% mass savings compared to existing composite systems. EPT extends knowledge from prior NASA funded Ultra-High-Performance-Vessel (UHPV) development to deep cryogenic, ellipsoidal, inflatable propellant structures. UHPV utilizes multiple layers including unloaded inner barrier material, minimally loaded carrier cloth, and primary load bearing meridional tendons.

This allows each material to be optimized for its functional contribution to the system leading to an overall simpler and lower mass solution. Prior work has proven UHPV feasibility for the barrier material intended for EPT and the utility of our complementary CELSIUS conformal, deployable cryogenic tank insulation.

UHPV is most optimal in ellipsoidal configurations and in EPT Phase I we determine the feasibility of UHPV for large, high pressure, cryogenic tank structures by completing a conceptual design, performing more detailed hull, barrier, and interface design, and demonstrating a subscale barrier film EPT including helium leak testing.

Potential NASA Applications

The proposed system is applicable to propellant tanks and for future NASA exploration missions, launch systems, propellant depot systems, and orbital or planetary systems. The Ellipsoidal Pressure Tank (EPT) is completely scalable and deterministic allowing it to apply to very small or extremely large (10s meters) applications. Our hybrid soft-structure ellipsoidal systems are more mass efficient than traditional systems thus improving system mass fractions and performance.

Potential Non-NASA Applications

The system is applicable to launch systems, propellant depots, and orbital or planetary systems. The Ellipsoidal Pressure Tank (EPT) is scalable and deterministic allowing it to apply to very small or large (10s meters) applications. The hybrid EPT soft-structure is more mass efficient than traditional systems. The EPT may find roles in commercial aspects of future LEO and planetary systems..

Duration: 6


Smart Passively Articulating High-Turndown Radiator (SPAHR)
Subtopic Title: Spacecraft Thermal Management

Principal Investigator
Thomas Cognata

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) :
Begin: 3
End: 4

Technical Abstract

Paragon Space Development Corporation (Paragon) will address NASA’s Z2.01 Spacecraft Thermal Management objective by developing and prototyping the Smart Passively Articulating High-turndown Radiator (SPAHR). The SPAHR concept has a base turndown capability of at least 13:1, with the potential of up to 43:1 using a propylene glycol/water (PGW) working fluid, providing unique capability to support crewed exploration with a non-hazardous working fluid.

The two orientations of the SPAHR radiator are ideally suited for the operational heat loading (6-8 kW) and dormant loading (1-2 kW) as called out by the solicitation. The SPAHR capability also more than meets the stretch goal of 12:1 identified in the NASA technology roadmap TA14.2.3.

This turndown capability is of the radiator device only; in a Thermal Control System (TCS) SPAHR turndown ratios can exceed the 50:1 goal in TA14.2.3.6 for Variable-Geometry Radiator. This very high turn down enables human exploration well beyond our present capabilities and enables single-loop thermal control of a crewed vehicle with a non-toxic fluid, which reduces TCS launch mass by 25% or more due in large part by eliminating the need for the external pump package.

SPAHR actuates via through solid-state, temperature dependent two-way shape memory torque tube. This actuation varies the view of radiator panels that also employ selective emissivity faces; the combination of which provides the high turndown.

The shape memory torque tube is actuated by the working fluid temperature alone. No active control, instrumentation, or power is required; the passive nature of its behavior makes for a highly dependable and robust thermal control mechanism and decreases the complexity and mass of control systems that would otherwise be required to orient the radiators. When in its highest heat rejection configuration, SPAHR’s mass and heat rejection per unit area are on par with state-of-the-art conventional flat panel radiators.

Potential NASA Applications

SPAHR is applicable to future human exploration systems, habitation systems, and to satellite systems. In Technology Area (TA) 14.2.3.6 of NASA’s 2015 Technology Roadmap, NASA identifies the need to develop variable heat rejection radiator technology that can achieve a turndown ratio of 12:1 (stretch goal) with an even higher performance goal of a 50:1 turndown ratio possible. SPAHR will surpass the stretch goal and contribute substantially toward achieving to the higher performance goal.

Potential Non-NASA Applications

SPAHR applies to vehicles, satellites, and habitats requiring pumped fluid loop radiators including large portions of the DOD and commercial satellite market. Elements developed for SPAHR are extensible to multiple radiator architectures not just the application described here. SPAHR has potential application as a lightweight, operationally responsive radiator for terrestrial DOD applications.

Duration: 6 months