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Technical Paper

Methods of Controlling the Loop Heat Pipe Operating Temperature

The operating temperature of a loop heat pipe (LHP) is governed by the saturation temperature of its compensation chamber (CC); the latter is in turn determined by the balance among the heat leak from the evaporator to the CC, the amount of subcooling carried by the liquid returning to the CC, and the heat exchanged between the CC and ambient. Thus, the operating temperature of an LHP is a function of the evaporator heat input and the condenser sink temperature. The LHP operating temperature can be controlled at a desired set point by actively controlling the CC temperature. Several methods have been developed to control the CC temperature, including direct heating of the CC, coupling block, heat exchanger and separate subcooler, variable conductance heat pipe, vapor by-pass valve, secondary evaporator, and thermoelectric converter. The paper discusses the operating principles, advantages and disadvantages of each method.
Technical Paper

Mathematical Modeling of Multiple Evaporator / Multiple Condenser Loop Heat Pipes and Test Data Verification

Loop Heat Pipes have proven as reliable heat transports for spacecraft thermal control systems. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in collaboration with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory recently proposed a miniature dual pump/condenser LHP system for use in future Mars missions. Results of a ground test program indicated that the dual pump/condenser LHP performed very well, but in a complicated manner. No analytical model was available to facilitate the design/analysis of this emerging technology. A generalized LHP theory will be presented in this paper along with the derived governing equations and solution scheme. Model predictions were made and compared with test data for validation.
Technical Paper

Capillary Limit in a Loop Heat Pipe with a Single Evaporator

This paper describes a study on the capillary limit of a loop heat pipe (LHP) at low powers. The slow thermal response of the loop at low powers makes it possible to observe interactions among various components after the capillary limit is exceeded. The capillary limit at low powers is achieved by imposing an additional pressure drop on the vapor line through the use of a metering valve. A differential pressure transducer is also used to measure the pressure drop across the evaporator and the compensation chamber (CC). Test results show that when the capillary limit is exceeded, vapor will penetrate the primary wick, resulting in an increase of the CC temperature. Because the evaporator can tolerate vapor bubbles, the LHP will continue to function and may reach a new steady state at a higher operating temperature. Thus, the LHP will exhibit a graceful degradation in performance rather than a complete failure.
Technical Paper

Testing of a Capillary Pumped Loop with Multiple Parallel Starter Pumps

A capillary pumped loop (CPL) with a single starter pump in its evaporator section has been demonstrated to have very reliable start-ups and robust operation. In order to service payloads with large thermal footprints or to service multiple payloads, a CPL with multiple starter pumps seems a logical approach. However, questions were raised concerning its reliability for successful start-ups. In order to verify the feasibility of such a concept, a test program was conducted at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, using four starter pumps plumbed in parallel. The main purpose of this experimental investigation was to verify the system's ability to provide a successful start-up and to retain performance characteristics demonstrated by a CPL with multiple evaporators of the traditional two-port pump design. Tests were conducted progressively by installing one, two and four pumps in the test loop.
Technical Paper

Operating Characteristics of Loop Heat Pipes

The loop heat pipe (LHP) was invented in Russia in the early 1980’s. It is a two-phase heat transfer device that utilizes the evaporation and condensation of a working fluid to transfer heat, and the capillary forces developed in fine porous wicks to circulate the fluid. The LHP is known for its high pumping capability and robust operation because it uses fine-pored metal wicks and the integral evaporator/hydro-accumulator design. It has gained rapid acceptance in recent years as a thermal control device in space applications. This paper presents an overview of the LHP operation. The physical processes and the thermal-hydraulic behaviors of the LHP are first described. Operating characteristics as functions of various parameters including the heat load, sink temperature, ambient temperature, and elevation are presented. Peculiar behaviors in LHP operation such as temperature hysteresis and temperature overshoot during start-up are explained.
Technical Paper

Testing of Flight Components for the Capillary Pumped Loop Flight Experiment

The Capillary Pumped Loop Flight Experiment (CAPL) is a prototype of the Earth Observing System (EOS) instrument thermal control systems. Four CAPL flight hardware components were tested in the Instrument Thermal Test Bed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. The components tested were the capillary cold plates, capillary starter pump, heat pipe heat exchangers (HPHXs), and reservoir. The testing verified that all components meet or exceed their individual performance specifications. Consequently, the components have been integrated into the CAPL experiment which will be flown on the Space Shuttle in late 1993.
Technical Paper

The Hybrid Capillary Pumped Loop

This paper describes the operational principles of a hybrid capillary pumped loop in general, and results on testing of a high power hybrid system in particular. A hybrid capillary pumped loop is a thermal control system which consists of a capillary pumped loop and a mechanical pump which is placed in series with the capillary evaporators in the liquid return line. The hybrid loop can be operated in either a passive capillary mode, or in a pump-assisted mode, whereby the mechanical pump augments the heat transport capability of the capillary evaporators. The high power hybrid system was built to demonstrate the feasibility of such a hybrid loop concept. Test results verified that a hybrid loop could be operated in either mode, and that transition between these two modes of operation required opening or closing a single valve on the liquid line.
Technical Paper

Design Evolution of the Capillary Pumped Loop (CAPL 2) Flight Experiment

The Capillary Pumped Loop Flight Experiment (CAPL 2) employs a passive two-phase thermal control system that uses the latent heat of vaporization of ammonia to transfer heat over long distances. CAPL was designed as a prototype of the Earth Observing System (EOS) instrument thermal control systems. The purpose of the mission was to provide validation of the system performance in microgravity, prior to implementation on EOS. CAPL 1 was flown on STS-60 in February, 1994, with some unexpected results related to gravitational effects on two-phase systems. Start-up difficulties on CAPL 1 led to a redesign of the experiment (CAPL 2) and a reflight on STS-69 in September of 1995. The CAPL 2 flight was extremely successful and the new “starter pump” design is now baselined for the EOS application. This paper emphasizes the design history, the CAPL 2 design, and lessons learned from the CAPL program.
Technical Paper

Performance of the CAPL 2 Flight Experiment

This paper describes flight test results of the CAPL 2 Flight Experiment, which is a full scale prototype of a capillary pumped loop (CPL) heat transport system to be used for thermal control of the Earth Observing System (EOS-AM) instruments. One unique feature of CAPL 2 is its capillary starter pump cold plate design, which consists of a single capillary starter pump and two heat pipes. The starter pump enhances start-up success due to its self-priming capability, and provides the necessary capillary pumping force for the entire loop. The heat pipes provide the required isothermalization of the cold plate. Flight tests included those pertinent to specific EOS applications and those intended for verifying generic CPL operating characteristics and performance limits. Experimental results confirmed that the starter pump was indeed self-priming and the loop could be successfully started every time.
Technical Paper

Hydrodynamic Aspects of Capillary Pumped Loops

The the past, the design of a Capillary Pumped Loop involved mainly on the thermodynamics and heat transfer aspects of the system. The fluid flow dynamics of the working fluid were deemed benign to the system performance. Recently theoretical and experimental studies have revealed several mechanisms that led to the deprime of the capillary pumps. These mechanisms were all related to the dynamics of the fluid movement inside the loop.
Technical Paper

Ground Tests of Capillary Pumped Loop (CAPL 3) Flight Experiment

The success of CAPL 2 flight experiment has stirred many interests in using capillary pumped loop (CPL) devices for spacecraft thermal control. With only one evaporator in the loop, CAPL 2 was considered a point design for the Earth Observing System (EOS-AM). To realize the full benefits of CPLs, a reliable system with multiple evaporators must be developed and successfully demonstrated in space. The Capillary Pumped Loop (CAPL 3) Flight Experiment was designed to flight demonstrate a multiple evaporator CPL in a space environment. New hardware and concepts were developed for CAPL 3 to enable reliable start-up, constant conductance operation, and heat load sharing. A rigorous ground test program was developed and extensive characterization tests were conducted. All performance requirements were met, and the loop demonstrated very reliable operation.
Technical Paper

A Prototype Capillary Starter Pump Cold Plate

The start-up of a capillary pumped loop under a fully flooded condition is often difficult. The problem is due to the presence of a high superheat at the onset of nucleate boiling, and the associated large pressure spike that results in possible vapor penetration through the wick. To overcome the start-up difficulty, a capillary starter pump has been developed. The starter pump is similar to the traditional evaporator pump except for a bayonet tube that is connected directly from the reservoir to the inside of the pump. Such an evaporator design is selfpriming since all displaced liquid must pass through the pump. The starter pump can replace the traditional capillary pump to provide capillary pumping for heat transport. It can further be integrated into a cold plate to receive heat from distributed sources such as spacecraft instruments. Isothermalization of the cold plate can be accomplished by incorporating heat pipes into the cold plate.