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Fuelling a modular vehicle

Posted by: Lourens - Tue May 12, 2009 8:15 pm
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Fuelling a modular vehicle 
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Space Station Commander
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Post Fuelling a modular vehicle   Posted on: Tue May 12, 2009 8:15 pm
Some time ago in one of the updates, John mentioned the problem of fuelling a vehicle consisting of a whole lot of modules bolted together, and that they had a potential solution, but he didn't mention what it was exactly.

I can understand the problem, I think. If you have dozens of modules, fuelling them one by one is a tedious task, and you'll probably get problems with temperature (and therefore pressure-) differences across the vehicle. That at best increases turnaround time and handling costs, and at worst makes the whole thing go uncontrollably off-course due to asymmetric trust.

So how to fix this? When I first read the update, I thought that you could have fuel and oxidiser ports at the top of each mod, and then lower a grid-like framework with connectors and a distribution grid on top. The framework connects to the ground tanks, and all the modules have their propellants loaded in one go. Connecting the grid framework to the modules may be tricky though. Ideally you have have connectors that are somewhat flexible, and just "click" into place. Tightening them one by one is no fun.

Another option would be to link the modules' tanks together. The modules are bolted together before flight anyway, and with the current configuration the tanks almost touch. Adding a connector between the tanks, integrated into the frame, would create a single big tank that could be filled from one connection. Using a Hilbert curve, you would only need two connections per module, although it would require one out of every four modules to have the connectors 180 degrees apart, with the rest having them at 90 degrees. An additional possible advantage is that if an engine fails, two neighbouring engines have extra propellant nearby and can be throttled up to compensate. Come to think of it, you'd have to have the connection below the tanks for that to work beyond the half-empty point. And would linking the tanks together reduce redundancy and thus affect the overall risk?

Would these be workable? Are there any other options?


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Space Station Commander
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Post    Posted on: Sun May 17, 2009 9:22 am
How about integrating the framework into the pad? You could pump the propellants through hollow legs, and there would be a hold-down mechanism integrated. On liftoff the propellants left in the lines in the pad would probably combust though. But then there's a lot of fire there already, so some more may not be a problem...


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