Barber-Nichols Inc. (BNI) is pleased to be awarded a NASA Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) award for Enabling Pump Technologies for Deep-Throttle Ascent/Descent Rocket Engine Operation. BNI’s proposal was in response to the NASA Glenn Research Center’s interest in developing an engine for future exploration of Mars that uses in situ produced propellants (e.g. oxygen and methane) and can be used for ascent, orbit transfer, pulsing attitude/reaction control, and descent.
Rocket engine turbopumps with deep (10:1+) throttle capability are required to meet this full mission profile. Technical hurdles to be overcome include fluid separation, stall, and cavitation. BNI will investigate two separate technologies to overcome these hurdles. First, a Continuous Variable Planetary (CVP) Transmission will be incorporated into the pump which improves inducer suction performance by allowing the inducer to rotate at a speed independent of the primary pump shaft. Second, Low Solidity Vaned Diffusers (LSVD) will be incorporated into the pump which improve pressure recovery and efficiency. The combination of these two technologies will maintain inducer suction performance and diffuser pressure recovery and efficiency over a wide throttle range.