NASA Selects Paragon Space Development to Develop Advanced Cryogenic Tank

Paragon Space Development Corp. will continue to develop a new tank designed to better store cryogenic propellants with the help of funding from NASA.

The space agency selected Paragon’s ellipsoidal propellant tank (EPT) for continued funding under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

The phase II award is worth up to $750,000 over two years. NASA funded the project under a smaller phase I award.

The EPT is an “innovative pressure vessel designed to provide the lowest cost and mass solution to the long-term containment of cryogenic fluids. The design is based on Thin Red Line Aerospace’s (TRLA) Ultra-High Pressure Vessel (UHPV) technology which has the highest specific strength of any competing design,” Paragon said in its proposal summary.

The tank could be used on lunar ascent/descent vehicles and at based on the moon and Mars, Paragon said.

The proposal summary follows.

Ellipsoidal Propellant Tank (EPT)
Subtopic: Cryogenic Fluid Management

Paragon Space Development Corporation
Tucson, AZ

Principal Investigator
Chad Bower

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL) :
Begin: 3
End: 4

Technical Abstract

Paragon Space Development Corporation proposes an Ellipsoidal Propellant Tank (EPT) innovative pressure vessel designed to provide the lowest cost and mass solution to the long-term containment of cryogenic fluids. The design is based on Thin Red Line Aerospace’s (TRLA) Ultra-High Pressure Vessel (UHPV) technology which has the highest specific strength of any competing design.

In EPT, a cryogenic propellant tank design was matured to demonstrate a 500+ psig system with a factor of safety of 2.5. Fluid barrier materials exhibit low helium leak rates and can be used in a launch configuration or launched in a stowed configuration for on-orbit or planetary deployment for use in propellant depot, propellant storage for long-duration exploration missions, and for such innovative uses as surface cryogen storage on the Moon.

Results from this effort indicate a more mass efficiency and volume efficient design that utilizes 73% of required volume envelope as compared to 66% for traditional spherical tanks. Additionally, EPT exhibits masses at 70% of the current NASA counterpart with a baselined polar bulkhead design.

System integration of EPT based on current SOA tanks was evaluated for integration, as well as bulkhead analysis and pressure restraint analysis. These efforts informed a barrier layer demonstrator design for the EPT which we then evaluate through helium coupon leak testing to validate the barrier materials selection and manufacturing process.

The results of Phase I provide feasibility demonstration of the materials and processes to provide a helium leak tight barrier and an overall pressure vessel design for Phase II prototyping and test. Future efforts will mature bulkhead design for greater reductions in mass, system integration, and the barrier laminate.

Additionally, thermal management will be evaluated with integration of traditional MLI and our CELSIUS, expandable, deployable, high mass efficiency MMOD/MLI system previously funded by NASA.

Potential NASA Applications

  • Cryogenic fluid storage for cooling systems that require low temperature for high fidelity optical sensors.
  • Lunar ascent/descent propellant tanks could benefit from mass and volume savings associated with EPT.
  • Coupled EPT and shielded radiator as boil-off collector from larger tanks for cryo-cooler replacement.

Potential Non-NASA Applications

  • Permanent outpost on Lunar/Martian surfaces for large scale assembly and manufacture of facility/resource processing or ECLSS facility.
  • InSitu Resource Utilization as propellant depot, or propellant storage of long-duration exploration systems. The high stowed-to-deployed ratio allow for many tanks to be launched from Earth to be operated in Lunar/Martian activities

Duration: 24 months