An air pump that converts kinetic energy into thrust, a centrifuge, and a vacuum, the centrifugal pumps that have taken off in the past few years have been a staple of spacecraft.
But, as the new vacuum-powered prototype shown here demonstrates, a new generation of these pumps could also provide much needed relief to astronauts.
The U.S. Air Force has tested a prototype of a centrifugic drive system that uses a centrifustic pump, an air pump, and some sensors to generate enough thrust to propel a spacecraft into orbit.
The project, called the Centrifuge for Spaceflight, is a collaboration between NASA and Swiss company XPRIZE.
The goal is to demonstrate a way to boost a spacecraft to orbit with minimal reusability.
Here, the Centaur-3, a rocket-powered space station module built by XPRISE, sits inside the Centaure vacuum chamber.
NASA’s Centaur is a four-stage rocket engine that is designed to carry satellites into orbit, but its main power source is an air-powered centrifuge that runs on water.
The Centaur engine produces an average of 12,000 pounds of thrust per second, but a vacuum vacuum chamber that contains air is crucial to its efficiency.
A vacuum chamber can be a significant problem when dealing with vacuum flow, and space agencies have struggled with the design of vacuum chambers over the years.
To solve this problem, NASA’s JPL has developed a vacuum chamber-free design called the “XPRIZE Centaur.”
To see how it works, let’s go back to the 1970s and 1980s, when vacuum technology was still in its infancy.
The XPRESTO Centaur was the first centrifugal-powered vacuum chamber for commercial use, and it’s still used in today’s satellites, as seen here.
After a few months of development, XPROME engineers started building a prototype vacuum chamber and vacuum-driven centrifuge.
In 1977, the first XPREDA centrifugal vacuum chamber was built by Lockheed Martin, and NASA followed suit in 1980 with the first U.N. Space Agency space shuttle vacuum chamber, the XPRESO-1.
This space shuttle was designed to reach orbit in less than five minutes.
NASA was confident that XPRESSO-2 would be a similar success.
It took four more years for XPROMEX, the space agency’s prime contractor, to complete its first vacuum chamber—a prototype called the XPH-1—but by the time the XPS-1 (the space shuttle’s successor) was launched in 1986, the vacuum chamber design had advanced significantly.
When the first space shuttle launched in 1981, the flight was the shortest in history, and the shuttle’s launch vehicle, the Solid Rocket Booster, had not yet been flown, but it did use a new type of centrifugal compressor called the CSP-1A.
This centrifugal generator produces thrust through the use of an electrostatic force that can change its direction.
XPROMEEX engineers realized that their vacuum chamber would need to be small, as small as possible.
“A lot of our design decisions are based on what we wanted to do for a spacecraft, and how big it was,” said XPRomeX vice president of engineering, Eric Trosch.
“We decided to build this centrifugal centrifuge to be very small.
We chose a design that is small enough to fit inside of the shuttle, and then the design was also large enough to allow the air to flow in and out of the chamber.
The larger the chamber, then the more pressure there is to push air through the vacuum.”
The XPRO-3 vacuum chamber is an evolution of the XPrOMEX centrifugal engine, and is the latest example of NASA’s efforts to find solutions to the vacuum-related problems of the space shuttle.
NASA also recently launched a spacecraft that uses an air and a water centrifuge as its propulsion system.
SpaceX’s commercial version of its Falcon 9 rocket has a similar design, the Falcon Heavy, which has a large, liquid-fueled engine that can boost a rocket to a low-Earth orbit.
This SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket engine is capable of launching payloads weighing between 1,800 and 3,500 kilograms into low-earth orbit, with the potential to reach a low orbital velocity of about 2,000 kilometers per hour.
The Falcon Heavy is the first spacecraft that can take off and land on solid ground at a speed of more than 20,000 meters per second.
An interesting twist on this same concept is that SpaceX’s Space Launch System rocket, which is also known as the Dragon, has an air turbine that uses liquid hydrogen as the fuel.
These two rocket engines are similar in size, but are not exactly alike