Published: 
May 28, 2021

NASA Selects Proposals to Conduct Fluid Physics Flow Boiling Experiments on the International Space Station

May 28, 2021

NASA Physical Sciences Research Program has selected two flight proposals to conduct experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) using a new flow boiling module for the Flow Boiling and Condensation Experiment (FBCE) in support of in-space cryogenic propellant tank transfer research.

Photo of 2 spacecraft in orbit against a dark atmosphere with the moon in the background
Research from the selected proposals will develop fundamental understanding of technologies that are a key component of NASA’s future space exploration plans, such as the Gateway orbiting the Moon.

Research from the selected proposals plans to develop fundamental understanding of chilldown, the process of chilling down the transfer line between cryogenic propellant tanks, using a combination of high-fidelity experimental techniques and computational simulations. Chilldown is of paramount importance during cryogenic liquid transport and involves complicated hydrodynamic and thermal interactions between the liquid, vapor, and channel wall. Data and modeling from these investigations will improve the knowledge base for the development of new cryogenic propellant tank transfer systems. These technologies are a key component of NASA’s future space exploration plans.

Close up black and white photo of fluid drops
The Flow Boiling and Condensation Experiment aboard the ISS makes it possible to study the transfer of heat in fluid flows containing both gas and liquid phases in microgravity.

The selected proposals are from two institutions in two states, with the total combined award amount of approximately $2.46M during a five-year period.

One of the selected proposals combines new experimental visualization techniques on Earth and on the ISS with multiscale computer simulations to increase our understanding of both terrestrial and microgravity chilldown. The project is a collaborative effort between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Raytheon Technologies Research Center in East Hartford, Connecticut, and is led by Nenad Miljkovic at the University of Illinois.

The second selected proposal conducts terrestrial and long-duration microgravity experiments to create a comprehensive database of chilldown experiments. The data will be used to validate the numerical models created as part of the project. This proposal is a collaboration between Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and HX5 in Cleveland, and is led by Chirag Kharangate at Case Western.

The Physical Sciences Research Program is managed by the Biological and Physical Sciences Division in NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA HQ in Washington, D.C. This program conducts fundamental and applied physical sciences research, with the objective of pioneering scientific discovery, enabling space exploration, and providing benefits on Earth. The program furthers fundamental research by investigating the fundamental laws of the universe and physical phenomena in the absence of gravity. The program also conducts applied research, which contributes to the basic understanding underlying space exploration technologies that will further our return to the Moon and our journey to Mars and beyond. Both have led to improved space systems or new products on Earth.

Below is the list of the selected proposals, principal investigators, and their organizations:

  • Nenad Miljkovic, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “High-Fidelity Experiments and Computations of Transient Two-Phase Flow for Understanding Cryogenic Propellant Tank Transfer
  • Chirag Kharangate, Case Western Reserve University, “Line Chilldown and Transfer Process in Microgravity onboard the ISS”