NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Recognizes Barber-Nichols For The Development of Highly Reliable Liquid Oxygen Pumps

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center recognizes Barber-Nichols Inc. (BNI) in its recently released Annual 2004 Research and Technology Report.  This report highlights research and technology and how it supports NASA’s overall goals to increase safety, reduce the cost of space access, and rapidly expand commercial markets by infusing spaceport technology into all facets of current and future space transportation systems.

BNI developed a new Liquid Oxygen (LOX) Pump that will be used to transfer LOX propellant to the Space Shuttle and other launch vehicles.  The new pump utilizes a non-contacting dynamic / purged labyrinth seal combination.  This highly reliable seal arrangement will replace the existing bellows-type face seal which is prone to cracking, fatigue, premature wear due to condensation, and misalignment of the mating rings.

Additionally, the new pump utilizes a single integrated drive shaft which maximizes rotordynamic stability.  The current Space Shuttle propellant loading pump couples the impeller to the motor through a universal joint that can potentially cause vibration and thus have detrimental effects on the pump’s seals.

Model BNCP-65-000 LOX Pump Solid ModelFinally, two of the new 204 m3/hr (900 gpm) pumps could be piped in parallel. The use of two pumps piped in parallel will increase the maximum rate at which spacecraft are loaded by 50% and should one pump go off line, the flow through the remaining pump can quickly be increased to 273 m3/hr (1,200 gpm). If confronted with a mechanical failure, this redundant pump system minimizes launch delays.

This innovative seal arrangement can be applied to many commercial applications for the transfer of low-viscosity, hazardous fluid (e.g. petroleum, liquefied natural gas, various chemicals, and cryogenic fluids). Because it is not submersible, this pump is more efficient and costs less to install and maintain. This large pump offers an attractive alternative to submersible pumps and is cost-competitive in this growing market. Click Here to view the complete article as published in the Research and Technology 2004 Annual Report.

Donald M. Pittman, NASA Kennedy Space Flight Center
Matthew E. Rottmund, Barber-Nichols Inc.