A fuel gauge technology to solve the problem of measuring fuel in a spacecraft’s tank is to be demonstrated on an upcoming journey to the Moon.
Developed at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, the Radio Frequency Mass Gauge (RFMG) payload is set to launch as a part of Intuitive Machines IM-1 delivery to the lunar surface through the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative.
“Because of the very small amount of gravity, fluid doesn’t settle to the bottom of propellant tanks but rather clings to the walls and could be anywhere inside,” said Lauren Ameen, deputy manager for the Cryogenic Fluid Management Portfolio Project Office at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
“That makes it really challenging to understand how much propellant you have within your tank, which is really important to maximize your mission duration and plan how much you need to launch with.”
RFMG technology uses radio waves and antennae in a tank to measure how much propellant is available.
While smaller-scale experiments have been conducted on the International Space Station and during parabolic flights, this will be the first long-duration RFMG testing on a standalone spacecraft, the Nova-C lunar lander. The data engineers receive throughout its journey could validate simulations done on the ground and mark the next step in developing this technology.
“It is a critical point. This is the first time we’re getting this type of data for RFMG,” Ameen said.
RFMG could be crucial during future long-duration missions that will rely on spacecraft fueled by cryogenic propellants, like liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen, or liquid methane. These propellants are highly efficient but are tricky to store as they can evaporate quickly, even at low temperatures.
Being able to accurately measure spacecraft fuel levels will help scientists maximize resources as NASA moves toward its goal of returning humans to the Moon through Artemis.
Read the original article here: https://www.nasa.gov/centers-and-facilities/glenn/nasa-tests-new-spacecraft-propellant-gauge-on-lunar-lander/