As human space exploration progresses beyond Earth orbit, the need for resource and waste management is paramount. Missions to the International Space Station (ISS) rely on resupply missions for replenishing resources, and waste is disposed by either burnup during Earth entry (i.e. Cygnus) or in recovery of reentry vehicles (i.e. Dragon). Future long duration missions will need a solution for reducing trash volume and processing the resulting atmospheric contaminates. For such waste systems, there currently is no reliable method for measuring mass flow rates for the effluent gases. Flow sensing techniques for waste require a robust device able to provide accurate mass flow measurements despite the variable and corrosive gas stream that includes a high content of water vapor and hydrocarbons. Typical mass flow measurement devices for gases do not operate well in a dirty gaseous stream, which include thermal and Coriolis types. Thermal elements in the gas stream will eventually collect deposits on surfaces and become non-responsive. Coriolis flowmeters can be relatively large, and they have a limited turndown range for gases. Space Lab Technologies LLC with the consulting efforts of Professor James Nabity at the University of Colorado Boulder proposes SHUR Flow™, a robust mass flowmeter for space habitat waste processing systems. SHUR Flow™ uses a smart hybrid ultrasonic technology in a relatively small formfactor. The instrument provides robust measurement of dirty flows with negligible pressure drop, corrosion resistance, and tolerance to the buildup of deposits in the inner tube waste processor. SHUR Flow™ also features high resolution radiation tolerant electronics. In Phase I, Space Lab will determine feasibility of the proposed instrument through conceptual design and analysis, risk and reliability assessment, and prototype testing.
SHUR Flow™ will be valuable in several NASA human exploration programs, including ISS operations, Lunar Gateway missions, and future surface missions, by providing a means to reliably and accurately measure effluent gases from waste process streams, with negligible pressure drop, corrosion resistance, and tolerance to the build-up of in-line deposits.
SHUR Flow™ provides a valuable improvement in flow measurement technology for dirty process gas flows, specifically by providing reliable flow measurement of dirty gas streams with relatively low flow rates and/or small pipe diameters, in a compact instrument. This technology would be commercially valuable in a variety of industrial manufacturing applications.