Flight Works is proposing to expand its on-orbit propellant management and refueling product line and add Xenon to its current chemical propellant transfer capabilities with the development of an efficient high-pressure-ratio Xenon compressor. Current capabilities include refrigerants, hypergols, “green” monopropellants, and cryogens like LOX and methane.
The proposed concept is based on an efficient transfer of the propellant, staying as close as possible to isothermal conditions and integrating heat exchangers between compressor stages in order to minimize power consumption, the work done on the fluid, and associated excess heat. The result is a compact, lightweight, efficient compressor specifically designed for on-orbit use and optimized for Xenon compression from 300 to over 3,000 psia at flow rates optimized for the future Gateway station and existing geosynchronous spacecraft. The compressor relies on positive displacement and is driven by a brushless electric motor. The objective of the program is to develop, manufacture, assemble and test a proof-of-concept unit under Phase II and transition to a flight unit for operational use under follow-on Phase III or commercial funding.
The compressor can also be used for other gases such as helium, oxygen or methane.
The compressor is designed for the NASA Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway and can be used on any spacecraft using Xenon or other fluids such as GHe, GOX, methane, etc. Because it is highly scalable and designed to move inert gasses, refrigeration and thermal management tasks are likely candidates. These include electronics or optics cooling, and recompression systems. Scavenging gasses for processing in habitats or sampling missions, or even deflating structures for relocation or re-entry, are other potential applications.
Non-NASA applications include Xenon (and other propellant) on-orbit refueling of DoD and commercial spacecraft. The scalability and versatility of the system in compressing other inert gases makes it an attractive candidate for numerous fluid systems.