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Cryogenics & Fluids

Code 552:  Cryogenics and Fluids Branch

The Cryogenics and Fluids Branch provides world-class expertise in the design and development of low temperature cooling systems and related technologies for spaceflight applications.  Typical science customers are infrared or x-ray detection instruments such as the X-Ray Spectrometer (XRS), Spitzer Telescope (SIRTF), Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), and James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).  Our technologies and capabilities enable cooling systems for detectors and optics, and ensure survivability for subsystems or spacecraft that will experience cryogenic temperatures.  Related research in superconductivity has included superconducting detectors, and materials for superconducting joints and magnets.

We welcome partners across AETD, throughout GSFC, other NASA Centers, other government and international agencies, industry, and academia.

Consulting, Research, Design and Testing

Code 552 promotes safe and well-planned missions from initial concept development through launch. We provide end-to-end support for instruments or systems that either require or must survive cryogenic temperatures to achieve their missions.

    �    Consulting on initial concept studies to ensure viability of designs and costs and promote
          required technology development.

    �    Engineering support through design, development, assembly and test to verify materials
          compatibility, thermal properties, and cryogenic safety.

    �    Mechanical design, fabrication, assembly, and test of deliverable cryogenic subsystems.

    �    Cryogenic thermal analysis of systems or subsystems.

    �    Materials testing at cryogenic temperatures, including composites and superconducting

    �    Cryogenic servicing and training of personnel for safe handling of stored cryogens.

Code 552 Technologies


Closed-cycle mechanical cryogenic refrigerators have been developed in close partnership with industry.  Mechanical coolers provide lighter weight, smaller size, and longer life than conventional stored cryogen systems.  The Branch maintains a cryocooler testbed and serves as an independent testing authority for characterization and qualification of cryocoolers for potential use for spaceflight applications. Several coolers developed through branch contracts or validated in our facilities have successfully flown, including the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrograph (NICMOS) Cryocooler installed on Hubble Space Telescope during servicing mission 3B and the cooler flown on the Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI).  Code 552 provides end-to-end cryocooler system support from cryocooler development, selection, and procurement, to system design, integration, and testing.

Magnetic Refrigerators

The Branch is a world leader in the development of Adiabatic Demagnetization Refrigerators (ADRs) to achieve sub-Kelvin temperatures.  ADRs work in tandem with other cooling systems, cryocoolers or stored cryogens, to provide cooling from room temperature to below 1 Kelvin.  Many of the key technologies such as magnetocaloric materials and passive heat switches have been developed or validated in-house.  Two flight ADRs have been built and were flown as part of the X-Ray Spectrometer (XRS) on Astro-E and XRS2 on Astro-E2.  Code 552 is working on a new multistage ADR to provide continuous sub-Kelvin cooling.

Cryogenic Fluids

The Branch has extensive experience in stored cryogen systems for ground and space applications, including the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) liquid helium system that led to the birth of the Branch.  We have developed or consulted on every flight stored cryogen system developed by NASA since the inception of the Branch.  Branch members are also experienced in cryogenic fluid handling.  The Superfluid Helium On-Orbit Transfer (SHOOT) shuttle demonstration answered many questions about the behavior of superfluid helium in a micro-gravity environment.

Drawing on lessons learned from these efforts and in collaboration with other NASA Centers, the Branch is investigating options for cryogenic propellant storage in support of Exploration to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

More Information

See Cryogenics & Fluids website for more details.


NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Code 552
Greenbelt, MD  20771

Branch Head:                        Susan Breon            301.286.5405
Associate Branch Head:        Judith Gibbon           301.286.8205

Last Updated ( Thursday, 12 October 2006 )

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Curator: Carlos Dutan
Developers: Code 585
NASA Official: Howard Branch
Last modified: 10/14/2009

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