SmallSat Propellant Positioning

Conceptual representation of a magnetic positive positioning system on a CubeSat platform

Multiphase flow management is of critical importance to in-space propulsion systems. Achieving liquid and/or gas-free expulsion and controlling propellant sloshing have been two of the main drivers behind propellant tank design since the 1960s. Even though a wide variety of solutions exist for storable propellants in traditionally-shaped containers, propellant management remains largely unexplored for conformal tank geometries like those employed in CubeSats.

The LGST Laboratory is introducing and advancing the technology readiness levels of novel propellant management technologies based on magnetic, dielectrophoretic, and thermal phase change mechanisms. Analytical, computational, and experimental studies are currently underway with the ultimate goal of achieving flight-ready implementations.  These systems diverge from existing capillary propellant management technologies and have the potential to offer reduced mass and volume requirements with improved performance. While the focus of this project is on applications to SmallSat propellant management, these technologies have the potential to impact low-gravity fluid management as a whole, spanning life support systems, thermal management, cryogenics storage, and others.

Student lead:

Samuel T. Hart

Journal Articles:

  • S. Hart, G. Lightsey, Á. Romero-Calvo, “Thermoelectromagnetic Smallsat Propellant Positioning”, Acta Astronautica, under review

Conference Papers & Presentations: