Liquid pumps made by pump technology leader KNF were on board an HTV-7 unmanned cargo spacecraft launched from Japan on September 23, 2018. Destined for the International Space Station (ISS), the spacecraft and its vital payload successfully docked three days later.
KNF’s first ever space-worthy liquid pumps are part of a new Life Support Rack for the International Space Station. Also known as an Advanced Closed Loop System (ACLS), the rack purifies air and produces oxygen for the ISS. It was developed by Airbus Defence and Space for the European Space Agency (ESA).
Engineers at KNF Flodos AG in Switzerland worked with Airbus for four years to specify and design the pump, which is based on KNF’s proven FEM 1.09 dosing pump. The project was part of Airbus’s COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) program, which uses well-established components to reduce the price tag for space flight.
The new ACLS rack will be installed in the ISS’s Destiny module (also known as the US Lab) by ESA astronaut and ISS commander Alexander Gerst on November 2, 2018. The technology is critical for achieving the closed loop life support system necessary for human space flight beyond low Earth orbit.
The two KNF pumps form part of an electrolyzer that produces oxygen and hydrogen from water. The pumps transfer supply water from a plastic bag into the ACLS, a key job since the oxygen produced is used to replenish the cabin air. The ACLS uses a Sabatier reactor to further increase system efficiency and reduce water consumption on the station.
According to the Senior Engineer at KNF Flodos in Switzerland, this was a unique and exciting opportunity for the engineering team. “Complying with the specifications for the COTS program was an interesting and challenging task. We had to keep the key components of the standard FEM 1.09 pump to ensure it maintained its reliability and specifications but make significant design modifications.”
The new, space-worthy KNF pump features several adaptations to the pump exterior, including:
- Stainless steel housing
- Vacuum-rated ball bearings
- Stainless steel fittings for the fluid connections
- Integration of a space-rated drive motor (which had to be achieved within a very short timeframe).
KNF is proud to have taken part in this project with Airbus Defense and Space and to prove that KNF was able to provide a solution for this demanding application.