Sending humans into space is a huge challenge because the environment is extreme. For missions into space, such as the Artemis mission to the moon, astronauts will need to carry liquid fuel and life support. The liquid is stored at temperatures ranging from -243 to -423 degrees Fahrenheit, and one of the biggest challenges for NASA is how to prevent fuel from boiling as the spacecraft heats up.
NASA has developed a range of technologies designed to reduce fuel boiling. To test the technology on a related scale, the team built a large low-temperature propellant tank with a diameter of more than 13 feet. The tank is called SHIIVER or structural insulation, insulation and vibration assessment devices. It has multiple layers of insulation and steam cooling channels to minimize heat entering the tank. The system also has an RF mass gauge, a tool designed to accurately measure spatial levels.
NASA conducted a thermal vacuum test of SHIIVER at NASA’s Plum Brook Space Propulsion Facility to assess the benefits of vapor cooling and multi-layer design for space conditions. The first vacuum test showed that the total heat was reduced by more than 55% compared to the current design. The team also tested the system using the world’s most powerful acoustic test chamber to simulate the launch environment and ensure that thermal management functions survive the launch. The tests were completed in January, and the team looks forward to future tests in space.