Paragon SDC Projects Selected for NASA Small Business Funding

Paragon Space Development Corporation will begin developing expandable habitats to outfit pressure vessels in space and an advanced space radiator with the assistance of NASA small business funding.

The space agency has selected the Tucson-based company for two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards. The contracts, which are worth a maxium of $125,000 apiece over 6 months, include:

  • Expandable Habitat Outfit Structures
  • Controlled Stagnation Radiator

The expandable habitat technology is designed for interior use.

“Multiple launch and payload providers have expressed interest in repurposing pressure vessels as on-orbit habitats and require outfitting for secondary structure, floors and dividers, ECLS ducting, thermal control accommodation, radiation shielding, wiring, lighting etc. to make the volume functional,” the proposal states.

“The proposed innovation uses multi-functional, intelligent fabrics in a tensioned membrane architecture that can be deployed by means of (a) pressurized annulus envelope that when inflated, expands against the habitat hull to anchor the structure while (b) multipurpose telescoping tubes at the core of the habitat expand in the axial direction across the opposing bulkheads to index the annulus pressure vessels,” the proposal adds.

Paragon’s other project aims at meeting NASA’s need for better space radiators.

“NASA Technology Roadmap Area 14 outlines a turn down goal of 6 to 1 by a thermal control system operating at the scale of kilowatts of heat removal,” the proposal states. “These thermal control systems must be designed to perform this turn-down and turn-up within a required time frame reliably and predictably. Paragon’s innovation will achieve this with lower weight, less complexity, and reduced costs, all while maintaining a highly flexible design.”

Summaries of the proposals follow.

Proposal Title: Expandable Habitat Outfit Structures
Subtopic Title: Habitat Outfitting

Small Business Concern
Paragon Space Development Corporation
Tucson, AZ

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Chad Bower

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 2
End: 4

Technical Abstract

Topic H3.01 captures the need for robust, multipurpose deployable structures with high packing efficiencies for next generation orbital habitats. Multiple launch and payload providers have expressed interest in repurposing pressure vessels as on-orbit habitats and require outfitting for secondary structure, floors and dividers, ECLS ducting, thermal control accommodation, radiation shielding, wiring, lighting etc. to make the volume functional.

The proposed innovation uses multi-functional, intelligent fabrics in a tensioned membrane architecture that can be deployed by means of (a) pressurized annulus envelope that when inflated, expands against the habitat hull to anchor the structure while (b) multipurpose telescoping tubes at the core of the habitat expand in the axial direction across the opposing bulkheads to index the annulus pressure vessels. Tensioned membrane structures exhibit the highest specific stiffness of any known structure and can produce significant weight savings over hybrid structural designs.

Inflatable structures package well and can significantly reduce stowed volume requirements and dampen launch vibro-acoustics. An inflatable habitat structure can most effectively address packaging, deployment, damage tolerance, ease of repair and in-flight maintenance. With lightweight rigging, these secondary structures will be designed to be fully repositionable, creating a modular approach to habitat outfitting.

The Paragon/TRLA team will develop a design that packages efficiently, deploys repeatability, and provides valuable capabilities including

a.) minimum mass, design simplicity, minimal parts count,

b.) a structure which folds efficiently deployment repeatability

c.) secondary soft goods fabricated which are integrated during build-up yielding minimal ground handling loads, and

d.) flooring, walls, ECLS air flow ducts, TCS fluid loops, lighting, electrical/data lines, and radiation protection structures all integrated in unison during buildup.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

The demand for space related habitats is starting to emerge. For example, the Inspiration Mars (IM) Foundation proposed a mission to Mars that included an inflatable habitat. Additionally, test flights to ISS have been proposed that deliver inflatable habitats for increased research space as well as for housing precursor tests for long-duration missions such as IM. The IM architecture study proposed a pre-flight experiment to the ISS that could use the proposed HOUSE solution for the pressure structure. Bigelow Aerospace, for which TRLA built the now-flying units in orbit, has staked the company’s future on the use of inflatable structures.

The potential post applications of the proposed are targeted for manned habitats including lunar surface system habitats, airlocks and other crewed vessels. The NextSTEP program, which seeks commercial development of deep space exploration capabilities, will support more extensive human spaceflight. Under the NextSTEP program, NASA seeks to support human spaceflight missions to beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO).

Other potential post applications can range from NASA commercial applications including deployable antenna reflectors, solar collectors, solar sails, payload fairings, water storage tanks, cryogenic propellant tanks, greenhouse enclosures, debris shields, radiation shields, re-entry vehicles, large telescopes, propellant depots, rover vehicles, orbital debris removal systems, emergency escape vehicle (ISS), and Martian air ships.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

Non-NASA application customers can include the Army and other DoD agencies in need of shelters. Other Non-NASA applications include: air bags, high altitude air ships, aerostats, compressed air energy storage, underwater habitats, underwater emergency escape systems (submarine), portable storage tanks for oil transport, remote fuel depot stations, remote water storage tanks for forest fire control, cargo lift balloons, large, deep space antenna reflector for ground stations, antenna radome, emergency shelters, and troop shelters with integrated ballistic protection.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Composites
  • Inventory Management/Warehousing
  • Isolation/Protection/Radiation Shielding (see also Mechanical Systems)
  • Isolation/Protection/Shielding (Acoustic, Ballistic, Dust, Radiation, Thermal)
  • Material Handing & Packaging
  • Polymers
  • Smart/Multifunctional Materials
  • Textiles
  • Waste Storage/Treatment

Proposal Title: Controlled Stagnation Radiator
Subtopic Title: Thermal Management

Small Business Concern
Paragon Space Development Corporation
Tucson, AZ

Principal Investigator/Project Manager
Norman Hahn

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) at beginning and end of contract:
Begin: 2
End: 4

Technical Abstract

NASA Technology Roadmap Area 14 outlines a turn down goal of 6 to 1 by a thermal control system operating at the scale of kilowatts of heat removal. These thermal control systems must be designed to perform this turn-down and turn-up within a required time frame reliably and predictably. Paragon’s innovation will achieve this with lower weight, less complexity, and reduced costs, all while maintaining a highly flexible design.

The Controlled Stagnation Radiator offers the ideal combination of maximized radiator performance at high heat loads and a high turndown ratio via controlled, determinate stagnation at low heat loads. By placing one or more passive pressure equalization devices on some of the radiator fluid tubes, that portion of the radiator becomes more resistant to stall, and those tubes without the innovation will be the first to stagnate. In effect, this system provides controlled stagnation by adding local stagnation resistance, rather than by adding mechanical systems which increase complexity and mass, or flow imbalance which impact design load performance.

Since the implementation of the innovation has no impact to the flow distribution in the design load case the radiator can both be optimized for full flow performance and be designed to exhibit determinate performance in deep stagnation for high turndown and intermediate loads, as is required of modern spacecraft thermal control system design.

This improvement upon the state of the art is expected to mature stagnation technology by giving the system greatly improved performance determinance which will allow the solution to be baselined for use in next generation spacecraft and optimized for any application with minimized design cycle, testing, cost and schedule impact.

The innovation concept is also highly compatible with Paragon’s xRad radiator manufacturing technique, meaning that any size and aspect ratio of radiator panel can be easily manufactured without the need for complex tooling.

Potential NASA Commercial Applications

The Controlled Stagnation Radiator is primarily intended for human-rated single loop ATCS applications as most suitable non-toxic fluids are highly viscous and prone to stall under low heat loads in cold environments. As NASA develops deep space mission capabilities there will be a need for new habitat modules that would benefit from the incorporation of this technology. In addition, the developed technology could be incorporated into block upgrades of multiple commercial and NASA spacecraft to save weight and decrease complexity and costs.

Additionally, surface habitat modules for the Moon and/or Mars could also benefit from the use of the Controlled Stagnation Radiator, especially as these colonies grow and require more radiator area to support higher maximum heat loads while still being functional at lower loads.

Potential Non-NASA Commercial Applications

Companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK and Bigelow are known to be proposing development of habitat or EAM modules for the anticipated NASA missions to deep space. Additionally, Elon Musk of SpaceX is very up-front about his desire to send humans to Mars. All of these represent potential customers.

Military customers have varied missions with periods of high and low thermal dissipation needs that would also benefit from the innovation. This includes directed energy, high-powered communication systems and Operationally Responsive spacecraft.

Also, Mars One is still pursuing the colonization of Mars and continues development of surface modules. As Paragon is already a partner on this project to provide life support, it would make sense that the Controlled Stagnation Radiator concept could find its way to Mars.

Technology Taxonomy Mapping

  • Active Systems
  • Analytical Methods
  • Cryogenic/Fluid Systems
  • Fluids
  • Heat Exchange
  • Passive Systems
  • Spacecraft Design, Construction, Testing, & Performance (see also Engineering; Testing & Evaluation)