A University of Colorado payload carrying a new device designed to reduce both the weight and cost of spacecraft fuel pumping systems has been selected for launch on a suborbital space plane called SpaceShipTwo developed by the aerospace company Virgin Galactic.
The CU payload consists of a lubrication-free, pistonless rocket fuel pump, according to aerospace engineering sciences Associate Professor Ryan Starkey, principal investigator on the project.
The device represents a potential advancement for rocket propellant pressurization and transfer that would reduce the weight and cost of spacecraft fuel systems, according to a news release .
The project, led by CU, was initiated as a university-industry partnership between the university and Flometrics, a specialized engineering firm based in Carlsbad, California, which holds the patent on the device. Known as The Pistonless Pump Technology Demonstrator, the project was developed using a grant from NASA's Game Changing Opportunities in Technology Development program.
The payload is one of 12 technology experiments announced by NASA this week that will fly on the first commercial research flight of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo. No date has been set for the launch.
Virgin Galactic has designed and developed SpaceShipTwo for space tourism. The space plane is made to ferry a crew of two plus six passengers into space. Virgin Galactic hopes to begin flying customers on short trips into space within one year.