Rocket propulsion test facilities and test articles are highly instrumented to enable a comprehensive analysis of performance and to ensure propulsion system risks are mitigated for spaceflight. NASA desires to advance propulsion ground test technologies to minimize test program time, cost, and risk while meeting safety requirements. To address this challenge, Luna Innovations, in collaboration with National Technical Systems, will develop a non-intrusive cryogenic fluid flow meter for existing piping infrastructure at rocket engine test facilities. The system uses a fiber optic cable attached to a pipe wall to measure the flow induced vibrations distributed along a section of piping. The implementation is non-intrusive and does not contain any electrical components making it inherently safe and robust for rocket engine fuel flows. The system will provide high fidelity flow rate measurements with low initial and operational costs.
A cryogenic flow meter will directly support liquid rocket propulsion development. A variety of systems exist that use liquid oxygen to combust with a variety of fuels including liquid hydrogen, kerosene, or liquid methane. In addition, the technology can be used in monitoring flow rates and piping health in space station components. Aero-propulsion applications would benefit from improved engine performance and structural health monitoring while eliminating heavier traditional sensors.
The automotive and commercial aircraft industry can use the sensing technology in critical piping to detect the onset of hardware failure. Flow sensing in high pressure and extreme temperature fluid systems in nuclear power, oil and gas, and industrial applications can be used to optimize processes and monitor hardware failure in remote or inaccessible locations.