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Development, Characterization, and Validation of an Aerogel/RTV Based Cryogenic Propellant Tank The University of Memphis/NASA Human Exploration & Operations Mission Directorate

Completed half of the prototype cryogenic propellant tank illustrating the layers of the compound aerogel/RTV655 material

ExperimenSetup for testing prototype aerogel/ RTV-655 cryogenic tank including support frame, cryogenic liquid tank filling/ venting plumbing, and instrumentation.

Completed RTV-655 prototype cryogenic tank filled with liquid nitrogen (77K)

Thermal image of the RTV655 tank with a 50% fill of liquid nitrogen (blue). Temperature scale is only an approximation of the thermal environment.

Long duration space missions will require new, reliable technologies in managing and storing cryogenic propellants. Cryogenic propellant tanks in space, such as an orbiting propellant depot, and on planetary surfaces (e.g. Moon, Mars) are exposed to incident solar radiation causing an increase in pressure as the liquid vaporizes (self pressurization). A novel, low upmass tank design which combines the elastomeric properties of the space qualified polymer RTV 655 with the thermal insulation properties of crosslinked aerogels is being developed. The proposed effort directly supported several goals from NASA’s Strategic Plan and the engineering propulsion priorities of Human Exploration & Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD). To support the effort, the investigators have collaborated with Dr. Mary Ann Meador and Dr. David Chato at the Glenn Research Center. The EPSCoR funding has provided a significant increase in both computational capabilities and experimental infrastructure with a specific focus in material characterization. In addition to the development of the cryogenic tank, the material characterization data provided justification to collaborate with industry in exploring the use of the compound RTV/aerogel material as an insulation layer in natural gas fired industrial burners. This research effort was ultimately funded by the TNSCORE program. The NASA EPSCoR grant has facilitated opportunities for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students to participate in space related research in West Tennessee and resulted in numerous student publications, presentations, and awards. In addition to the NASA EPSCoR grant, financial support for these students was supplemented through the Tennessee Space Grant and NSF STEM grant programs at the University of Memphis.



NASA EPSCoR Stimuli 2014 -15

Dr. Mary Ann Meador, NASA Technical Monitor, Senior Chemical Engineer, NASA Glenn Research Center

Jeffrey G. Marchetta, Science PI, Associate Professor, The University of Memphis and Dr. Firouzeh Sabri, Science PI, Assistant Professor, The University of Memphis

EPSCoR Stimuli 2014-15  

NASA Office of Education’s Aerospace Research & Career Development (ARCD) is pleased to release NASA EPSCoR Stimuli, a collection of univers...

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