Future astrophysics missions require efficient, low-temperature cryocoolers to cool advanced instruments or to serve as the upper-stage cooler for sub-Kelvin refrigerators. Potential astrophysics missions include Lynx, the Origin Space Telescope, and the Superconducting Gravity Gradiometer. Cooling loads for these missions are up to 300 mW at temperatures of 4 to 10 K, with additional loads at higher temperatures for other subsystems. Due to low jitter requirements, a cryocooler with very low vibration is needed for many missions. In addition, a multistage cooler capable of providing refrigeration at more than one temperature simultaneously can provide the greatest system efficiency with the lowest mass. Turbo-Brayton cryocoolers have space heritage and are ideal for these missions due to negligible vibration emittance and high efficiency at low temperatures. The overall size, mass, and performance of Brayton cryocoolers are highly dependent on the technology employed in the recuperative heat exchangers (e.g., recuperators). On the proposed program, Creare plans to develop an advanced compact, lightweight recuperator focused on the low temperature range of the Brayton cryocooler. In Phase I, we will perform design assessments, fabrication trials, and demonstration testing. In Phase II, we will build and demonstrate an advanced recuperator for cryocoolers operating at temperatures down to 4 to 10 K.
The successful completion of this program will result in an extremely efficient low-temperature cryocooler with negligible vibration. This type of cryocooler is ideal as the upper-stage cryocooler or primary cooler for cooling advanced, low-temperature space instruments. Potential NASA missions include Lynx, the Origin Space Telescope, and the Superconducting Gravity Gradiometer.
The military market for the cryocooler technology is for cooling hyperspectral imaging systems on space‑based observation, surveillance, and missile defense systems. Commercial applications include cooling communication satellites; superconducting instruments, digital filters, and magnets; low‑temperature gas‑separation systems; hypercomputers; and superconducting quantum interference devices.