KSC tests smart umbilical mating system for NASA ‘s space launch initiative Aerospace Online

Engineers at Kennedy Space Center are testing the newest in umbilical technology in support of NASA’s Space Launch Initiative (SLI)-a technology development effort to establish reliable, affordable space access. “Umbilicals are the lifeline for any Space Launch Vehicle,” said Warren Wiley, KSC’s SLI program manager. “Fluids including propellants, pressurization gasses, and cooling systems, power, communications, and instrumentation readings all flow through the umbilical. They are large devices that are manpower intensive to mate, test, and maintain.” The Smart Umbilical Mating System, three years in development by Rohwetter Systems, Oviedo, Florida, and NASA will serve as a modern, next-generation umbilical system. “The concept is to replace a T-0 umbilical with an automated umbilical which has a mate, demate and remate capability,” said Tom Lippitt, KSC’s spaceport engineering and technology lead engineer. “In addition to ground-based applications, planetary systems and rovers will require umbilical mating for propellant loading and electrical and data connection,” said Lippitt. “The technology developed as part of this project may be applied to develop simple, reliable, self-sufficient mating. Some of this work will be required to make certain missions and systems feasible such as the Mars methane fueled rovers.”