Maintaining it Recent: A Area Fridge for Lengthy-Period Missions

A fridge for chilly storage is only one of many issues astronauts will want as they journey farther into area. The everyday family fridge, nonetheless, shouldn’t be designed to work within the absence of Earth’s gravity. From Might 4 by 7, 2021, researchers from the small manufacturing firm Air Squared, Purdue College, and Whirlpool Company accomplished a parabolic flight marketing campaign with Zero Gravity Company in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to check the gravity independence of a system that might hold meals contemporary for years at a time.

Purdue College Ph.D. pupil Leon Brendel rotates a extremely instrumented fridge experiment designed to work in numerous orientations – even the other way up – to maintain meals contemporary for lengthy durations in area. Picture credit score: Purdue College / Jared Pike

The vapor compression refrigeration know-how demonstration system is in regards to the dimension of a big microwave oven, although the identical cooling know-how could possibly be utilized in fridge cupboards a number of instances as giant. Designed primarily for meals storage, it might additionally assist protect organic samples for science experiments. Uniquely, its oil-free scroll compressor might make it dependable in any orientation, like the other way up or on its facet – an necessary functionality for the variable gravity of lunar and planetary missions.

Headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, Air Squared obtained funding for the refrigeration know-how by Section I and II awards from NASA’s Small Enterprise Innovation Analysis (SBIR) program. It was later bolstered by investments from NASA’s Johnson Area Middle in Houston and Whirlpool Company in Benton Harbor, Michigan, in addition to NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, whose help of Air Squared’s SBIR Phase II-Extended award included the current flight assessments. The know-how’s ongoing analysis and growth is a part of the company’s Superior Exploration Programs Logistics Discount and Repurposing challenge at NASA Johnson, which evaluates applied sciences that could be helpful on future missions to Mars.

Every of the 4 parabolic flights supplied the analysis crew temporary durations of microgravity, whereas additionally permitting them to be current to are inclined to their payloads throughout flight. The crew evaluated the vapor compression cycle, a standard technique for cooling in on a regular basis fridges on Earth that normally is dependent upon the conduct of liquid and vapor in gravity. This demonstration resulted within the first ever documentation of vapor compression refrigeration in a parabolic or suborbital setting, offering important knowledge to mature the know-how for potential future use on area exploration missions.

“It’s one factor for us to gather microgravity knowledge and confirm that the system is sustaining cooling,” stated Dr. Stephen Caskey, principal investigator for the flight demonstration. “However it’s one other factor to establish potential points after which predict them so we will discover workarounds. The suggestions we’ve obtained from NASA and the parabolic testing we’re doing helps us towards that purpose.”

About Flight Alternatives

The Flight Alternatives program is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) on the company’s Headquarters in Washington, and managed at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the solicitation and analysis of applied sciences to be examined and demonstrated on business flight autos.


NASA’s SBIR/Small Enterprise Expertise Switch (STTR) program, additionally inside STMD, funds the analysis, growth, and demonstration of modern applied sciences that fulfill NASA wants as described within the annual solicitations and have vital potential for profitable commercialization. This system is open to small companies with 500 or fewer workers and to non-profit analysis establishments, akin to universities or analysis laboratories, with ties to small companies.

By Elizabeth DiVito
NASA’s Flight Alternatives program

Supply: NASA

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