Advancing Thermal Management in Space: ACT receives 7 NASA SBIR Awards
Lancaster, PA: Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc. (ACT) is pleased to announce the awards of seven NASA R&D programs thus far in 2020:
- NASA Phase II SBIR, Variable Conductance Cold Plate for Spatial and Temporal Temperature Uniformity
- NASA Phase II SBIR, Autonomous Melting Probe for Icy Planets Exploration
- NASA Phase I SBIR, Thermal Management System for Lunar Ice Miners
- NASA Phase I SBIR, “Dark” Photovoltaic Cells for Space Power Generation
- NASA Phase I SBIR, 3D Printed Loop Heat Pipe (LHP)
- NASA Phase I SBIR, Passive Thermal Control Valves for Loop Heat Pipes and Pumped Systems
- NASA Phase IIE/III SBIR, NASA VIPER Rover Thermal Management
ACT has a history of leveraging R&D programs into emerging thermal technologies, and currently has five patents related to Spacecraft Thermal Control, with another six related patents pending. ACT’s Product Development group has been hard at work this year transitioning Space Copper Water Heat Pipes (SCWHPs), one of the most promising NASA collaborations of 2017, to full-scale production.
NASA Phase II SBIR, Variable Conductance Cold Plate for Spatial and Temporal Temperature Uniformity
Many of NASA’s instruments are extremely sensitive to temperature variations when making measurements, both spatially over different components of the instruments, as well as temporally when making long observations.
ACT will work with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to develop the Variable Conductance Cold Plate.
NASA Phase II SBIR, Autonomous Melting Probe for Icy Planets Exploration
NASA is interested in exploring the possibility of life on the Ocean Worlds of Europa and Enceladus. This requires a reliable and autonomous ice penetration vehicle that can melt through the ~30km (18 mile) thick ice crust on Europa to determine if there is life in the oceans.
ACT will work with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to develop the thermal management architecture for this nuclear-powered ice-melting probe.
NASA Phase I SBIR, Thermal Management System for Lunar Ice Miners
A large amount of ice water was identified at the polar regions on the Moon and is important for future manned missions to the Moon. Extracting this water ice from within the Permanently Shadowed Regions (PSR) requires high thermal energy input and inversely, capturing this water vapor requires significant cooling capacity. It is critical to develop a dedicated thermal management system (TMS) for Lunar ice mining application. The system integrates multiple thermal components (waste heat-based thermal corer, passive cooled cold trap container etc.) that can significantly reduce the mass, volume and electricity usage while maximizing ice extraction/collection rates.
ACT has teamed up with Honeybee Robotics (HBR) to develop a thermal management system for Lunar ice miners that uses the waste heat of GPHSs for heating and uses the Lunar environment as the heat sink for cooling.
Watch this video for behind the scenes footage!
NASA Phase I SBIR, “Dark” Photovoltaic Cells for Space Power Generation
This program will develop a novel “dark” photovoltaic cell that can generate electricity when there is no sunlight. The proposed “dark” PV technology exploits the thermo-radiative (TR) cell, which is also made of semiconductor p-n junctions and can be viewed as a reversed PV cell, as a new way to efficiently convert heat to electricity when radiatively coupled to a low temperature heat sink. The immediate NASA application is to generate electrical power during the lunar night using the waste heat from the radiators of lunar landers and rovers. Another potential application is to use TR cell as an alternative technology for high-temperature solar cell, which could be helpful for near-Sun missions (e.g., near Mercury orbit), since the performance of TR cell increases rapidly with temperature.
ACT is partnering with Lurie Nanofabrication Facility of Univ. of Michigan to fabricate the cells used in this project.
NASA Phase I SBIR, 3D Printed LHP
Loop heat pipes (LHPs) are a commonly utilized device for spacecraft thermal control due to high efficiency and flexibility (ability to integrate with deployable radiator, thermal control valve, etc.). However, they are currently too costly to manufacture to make them viable for most cost-sensitive applications such as CubeSats and SmallSats. In this program, ACT will work to improve the wick properties in order to apply this emerging technology to higher power, large satellite applications, which are the current main loop heat pipe market, The current program will further reduce the power size, and increase the porosity.
NASA Phase I SBIR, Passive Thermal Control Valves for Loop Heat Pipes and Pumped Systems
There is a clear need for advanced thermal control solutions that can support extended-duration science payloads on the lunar surface. Since the primary power source for near term Lunar surface science missions is a combination of solar photovoltaic arrays & batteries (note that each watt of power required through the lunar night requires ~5 kg of batteries), a thermal control system that rejects daytime heat efficiently & conserves energy through the night is essential to keep the payloads, batteries and other critical components at suitable temperatures.
ACT will work with NASA to develop passive Thermal Control Valves (TCVs), and test them with a low-cost, 3D-printed Loop Heat Pipe (LHP).
NASA Phase IIE/III SBIR, NASA VIPER Rover Thermal Management
Future Lunar bases will require water for the astronauts. ACT has recently been awarded a Phase IIE/III program to develop engineering demonstration units for the NASA VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) rover program, which is scheduled to land on the moon in December, 2022. The VIPER Rover will roam several over several miles, using its four science instruments, including a 1-meter drill, to sample various soil environments looking for water.
ACT will be working with NASA Johnson Space Center.
A Phase IIE/III program is a program developed by NASA to fund further development of technologies developed by NASA Phase II SBIR programs.
These awards will further enhance ACT’s products for Spacecraft Thermal Control, including:
- Thermal Modeling and Design
- Constant Conductance Heat Pipes (CCHPs)
- Variable Conductance Heat Pipes (VCHPs)
- Space Copper-Water Heat Pipes and High Conductivity (HiK™) plates
- Loops Heat Pipes (LHPs)
- Phase Change Material (PCM) Heat Sinks
- Accumulators for Pumped Loop Systems
- Momentum Driven Vortex Phase Separators