NASA builds structure for keeping fluids cool in spaceMarie Donlon | February 12, 2020
A team from NASA has developed a cryogenic vacuum chamber to prevent critical fluids like fuel from boiling off when introduced to the extreme temperatures of space.
The structure, which has been dubbed the Structural Heat Intercept, Insulation and Vibration Evaluation Rig (or SHIIVER), is a vacuum chamber built within the confines of NASA’s In-Space Propulsion Facility at Plum Brook Station.
There, the structure is exposed to the simulated temperature extremes of space to demonstrate that the vessel can keep liquids such as fuel and critical life support systems stored at cryogenic temperatures (ranging from -243° F to -423° F) usable, preventing the liquids from evaporating or boiling off.
To accomplish this, the team built the 13 ft in diameter cryogenic propellant structure using multilayer insulation and vapor cooling channels to minimize the ingress of heat. The system also features a radio frequency mass gauge for accurately measuring fluids in space.
During vacuum testing of the vessel, researchers determined that the structure experienced a more than 50% reduction in heat.
Such a development could potentially improve liquid boil-off during future deep space exploration missions, keeping critical fluids in usable form and liquids available for the rocket to use, thereby keeping it efficient.