William Notardonato Lecture

25 September 2019


Artist's concept of a proposed United Launch Alliance propellant depot with sun shields. NASA 2011.

Gas Stations in Space

A public lecture by Dr William Notardonato, Principal Investigator, Kennedy Space Centre Exploration Research and Technology Programs, NASA, and Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellow.

There is an increasing worldwide effort working towards exploration and development of space, including governments of many world powers as well as commercial companies. The long term success of these efforts depends on making the mission architecture sustainable, which implies reusability of major components. But rockets need refueling capability in order to be reusable.

This presentation will discuss current thoughts and efforts towards developing a cryogenic refueling capability for in space missions. Design requirements of this “gas station in space”, dictated by the deployment location and propellant choice, will be given. A concept of refueling operations will be presented, and issues of market demand and pricing will be addressed.

Dr William Notardonato started his career as a fluid systems engineer on the Space Shuttle with NASA in 1988. Working both on Life Support and Fuel Cells systems, Bill gained cryogenic fluid and high pressure gas operations experience that proved valuable for later design projects and research efforts. He was the system lead for the vehicle Atlantis and also led the mission specific fluids modifications group. He earned awards for payload integration and Shuttle modifications for the Mir airlock modification and the Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. After a brief stint in Design and Development designing and testing X-33 umbilical hardware, Bill was selected to lead cryogenic systems development for a Mars In-Situ Resource Utilization R&D effort. From here was awarded the Kennedy Graduate Fellowship to attend the University of Florida to work on his PhD in the area of Integrated Refrigeration and Storage of Liquid Hydrogen. Since that time, Dr Notardonato has been working as a senior Principle Investigator at the Cryogenic Test Laboratory. He created novel cryogenic and thermal control systems including cryocoolers and their components, shape memory alloy thermal switches, and test cryostats for materials research. The original IRAS work started during his dissertation has continued to mature and has included small scale tests with LH2, LX, and LNG. Bill has successfully demonstrated large scale LH2 zero boil off and densification operations as part of the Ground Operations Demonstration Unit for Liquid Hydrogen. This demonstration included no loss tanker offloads, in-situ hydrogen liquefaction, 18 month zero boil off storage, and densification to slush conditions. This IRAS technology is being infused into several tanks worldwide, including the new 1.4 M gallon sphere at LC-39B at KSC. Bill is author or co-author of over 60 technical papers in the field of ground and in-space cryogenic systems, and he holds 4 patents on heat exchanger and thermal switch developments.

Australian Centre for LNG Futures

Launched in 2016 the Australian Centre for LNG Futures (ACLNGF) is an Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Training Centre (ITTC) based at The University of Western Australia (UWA). The LNG focused research has a strong industry focus and aims to increase growth, productivity and capabilities in this key Australian industry. Through innovation and investment through partnership the Centre builds on UWA’s track record of LNG industry aligned research. The Training Centre further fosters links with industry and promotes innovation and technology transfer. Key roles of the Training Centre include fostering stronger collaboration between researchers and industry and to train industry-ready PhD students.