Conformal Propellant Tanks and Vane Design
Current small satellite propellant tank design is driven by three factors: volume op-timization, manufacturing capability, and propellant management. Conformal propellanttanks offer solutions to the design challenges of optimizing satellite volume and manufac-turing costs. Conformal propellant tank designs that meet these challenges have unknowneffects on propellant management. Compounding this uncertainty is the industry shift to-wards new green propellants with large contact angles. Improper propellant managementcan deliver gas to a thruster or leave propellant trapped away from the tank outlet whiledraining. Both scenarios reduce the lifespan of satellites.
Stamping is one manufacturing process that can produce tanks that optimize volumeand are relatively easy to manufacture. The effects of the stamping process on tank shapeand propellant management is evaluated through testing four different tank geometries. Thestamping process sometimes leaves behind a seam where two sides of a tank are joinedtogether. A total of six tank and vane combinations are tested. One set of traditional tanksserve as a control. Three tanks tested share vane geometry and have different interiors toevaluate the effects of the stamping process on propellant management. The first tank hasa smooth interior, the second has a seam at the joints and the third tank has a seam andridges for increased stiffness. The last two tanks have an interior in the shape of an arc andhave different vanes. The experiment is flown on the ZeroG airplane to test the tank andvane designs in a weightless environment.
The experiment consists of a payload rack, eleven experimental pods and one powerdistribution pod. Each experimental pod is designed to be modular and independent fromall other experimental pods. Each experimental pod hosts a camera, electrical box, secondcontainment and fluid system with four tanks.
The results of this study show no discernible difference could be observed between tankswith or without a seam from the stamping process. When ridges are added to a tank thatare parallel to the contact line, liquid may not wick into the ridge if it is dry. If the ridgeis wet the liquid spreads out on the surface of the tank further. The differences betweenpropellant positioning for zero and nonzero contact angle fluids are discussed