Research Project

Concept Development and Feasibility Study for In-Space Propellant Tank Venting


In preparation for future missions where in-space propellant transfer is desired, the need has arisen to develop an effective venting solution for propellant tanks that do not contain a bladder or diaphragm and do not implement a settling maneuver before venting. One primary concern is the ability to effectively vent the ullage fluid of these tanks without propellant loss through the vent system. Isolating propellant from the ullage fluid during a vent operation without a settling maneuver requires additional design elements for the tank and vent system. This design should be robust enough for varying fill levels of the propellant tank. Additionally, differing propellant management devices (PMDs) will have design constraints regarding propellant filling operations (e.g., flow rate) that must be considered regarding the performance of the vent system solution.
Motivation/Research Problem
As space travel extends to greater duration and distance, missions may require a propellant refill in space. To achieve this, spacecraft may require larger tanks, efficient refueling, and tanks capable of isolating propellant from ullage fluid (a gas and vapor mixture) during a vent. The goal of this research is to develop a novel solution for the venting of ullage contents from a partially full propellant tank in microgravity with minimal losses.
Research Team

Lead Researchers 

  • Prof. Bingbing Li, Department of Manufacturing Systems Engineering and Management
  • Prof. Christoph Schaal, Department of Mechanical Engineering


  • NASA JPL: Dr. Douglas Hoffman, Dr. Richard Otis, Dr. Ryan Watkins, Dr. Bryan McEnerney
  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: Ryan McClelland at Instrument Systems and Technology
  • UCLA: Dr. Xiaochun Li, Dr. Morris Wang
  • Honeywell Aerospace: Gregory Colvin, Bob DeMers
  • Castheon Inc: Dr. Youping Gao, Mr. Steve James
  • ASTM Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence (AM CoE): Mr. Shane Collins
  • SimInsights Inc: Mr. Rajesh Jha
  • El Camino College: Mr. Jose Anaya

Student Team

  • Dr. Changyu Ma, Postdoc in ARCS at CSUN
  • Donald Palomino, Fellow, M.S. candidate in Manufacturing Systems Engineering at CSUN
  • Paula Logozzo, Fellow, undergraduate student in Mechanical Engineering at CSUN
  • Elliot Sadler, Fellow, M.S. candidate in Manufacturing Systems Engineering at CSUN
  • Bodia Borijin, Intern, B.S. candidate in Structural Engineering at UCSD
  • Andrew Wang, Intern, Portola High School


  • Funding Organization: NASA
  • Funding Program: MUREP Aerospace High-Volume Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management (MUREP High Volume), Grant number: 80NSSC22M0132
Alignment, Engagement and Contributions to the priorities of NASA’s Mission Directorates
Aligned with NASA STMD mission.
Research Objectives

This work seeks solutions to propellant tank venting in micro-gravity with minimal loss. Although all concepts will be considered, solutions external to the propellant tank are preferred, as they could use existing (heritage) propellant tanks and avoid development costs related to designing and qualifying a new (or modified) tank.

Three objectives are proposed:

  1. Conduct research of the existing state-of-the-art for propellant management devices and in-space propellant transfer operations
  2. Develop a solution(s) to propellant tank venting in micro-gravity with minimal loss of propellant during a propellant transfer operation, preferably which can be applied to existing propellant tank designs, with a design goal of maximizing the propellant transfer flow rate
  3. Carry out a thorough analysis program to demonstrate concept design under differing operating conditions and use cases
Research Methods

This theoretical study encompasses analytical solution methods and an associated parametric study.

Research Deliverables and Products
  1. A final briefing to the Aerospace Corporation at the conclusion of the performance period
  2. Development of a model and associated computer code or software used to develop final modeling results
  3. Data files of final modeling results
Research Timeline

Start Date: 3/1/2024
End Date: 2/28/2025

Research Team

Lead Researchers 

  • Prof. Vinicius Sauer
  • Dr. Nhut Ho
  • Prof. Bingbing Li


  • Dr. Matthew E. Taliaferro, Dr. Samuel R. Darr, and Dr. Paul D. Lee at The Aerospace Corporation

Student Team

  • Carl Bejosano
  • Nathan Gabriel
  • Jesus Sanchez
  • Jessica Vasquez
  • Cole Millett


  • Funding Organization: The Aerospace Corporation