Cryocooler for New Focal Plane Arrays

Period of Performance: 12/04/2012 - 03/04/2015


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Front Range Engineering Company
8746 Streamcrest Dr
Boulder, CO 80302
Principal Investigator


ABSTRACT: Air and space gimbaled Infrared, multi-spectral, and hyperspectral sensor systems require cryogenic cooling to operate. Current cryogenic systems are inefficient, costly, subject to vibrations, are typically the high-maintenance portion of a sensor system, and take up a considerable amount of size, weight and power (SWaP) onboard air and space platforms. Current Cryocooler technology used by the Department of Defense generally fall into one of two categories. The first category, space Cryocooler, includes multiple candidate technologies capable of reaching an objective ~30K temperature and below, but these systems typically cost >$1M because of the low build quantities and the extreme demands of the environment, and excessively high overhead costs of large contractors. The second category, airborne tactical Cryocooler, are affordable at a typical cost between $5,000 and $20,000, but they are generally designed for a high operating temperature range (>65K) for the objective mission. The Cryocooler design resulting from the Phase I SBIR is a military-grade Cryocooler capable of reaching temperatures traditionally reserved for the space Cryocooler, but at a recurring price more typical of the tactical Cryocooler marketplace. The Phase II SBIR will move the system design developed in the Phase I SBIR to a flight configuration demonstration unit. BENEFIT: The Phase II effort will lead to a large number of applications. This Cryocooler will eliminate the need for cryogens on airborne missions providing a significant CONOPS advantage. These sensors can be marketed to both Air Force, other military, NASA, classified customers, and commercial companies.