The Porous Plate Sublimator as the X-38/CRV (Crew Return Vehicle) Orbital Heat Sink 1999-01-2004
A porous plate sublimator (based on an existing Lunar Module LM-209 design) is baselined as a heat rejection device for the X-38 vehicle due to its simplicity, reliability, and flight readiness. The sublimator is a passive device used for rejecting heat to the vacuum of space by sublimating water to obtain efficient heat rejection in excess of 1,000 Btu/lb of water. It is ideally suited for the X-38/CRV mission as it requires no active control, has no moving parts, has 100% water usage efficiency, and is a well-proven technology.
Two sublimators have been built and tested for the X-38 program, one of which will fly on the NASA V-201 space flight demonstrator vehicle in 2001. The units satisfied all X-38 requirements with margin and have demonstrated excellent performance. Minor design changes were made to the LM-209 design for improved manufacturability and parts obsolescence.
This paper presents sublimator performance, including ground test data at both CRV and off-design conditions and also contains a discussion on sublimator integration into the vehicle. Sublimator operation at ambient pressure while boiling a sea-level evaporant (such as HCFC-124) is also discussed as it could enable expanded CRV ECLSS system capability during the post-landing phase of the mission.