Through research and first-hand experience in the CubeSat industry, NLR and ISIS have narrowed the thermal issues down to a few main gaps, or problems to solve. First is hardware design, which makes updating thermal controls difficult to implement and integrate. Next is knowledge, or the lack of insight and information on thermal properties like the transfer of heat through common elements of CubeSats through conductive coupling or contact conductance. Finally, linked to this lack of information, is the verification & validation of systems with only basic modelling and testing.
To close the gaps in knowledge collaborators turned to ESATAN-TMS to build detailed thermal modelling concepts for improved accuracy of testing results and data. In doing so, researchers aim to cut the lead time of thermal analysis and the thermal modelling process. Additionally, with the new wealth of information, NLR and ISIS can use this data to create a library of thermally validated and verified CubeSat modules that can be used as building blocks for future satellites – accelerating the process even further for both current and potential customers.
Multi-parallel micro pump
While working to close the knowledge and validation gaps with more accurate data and standardisation with the help of ESATAN thermal modelling, project collaborators were also interested in how CubeSat hardware could address the issue of rising or spiking temperatures. Compared to regular satellites, CubeSats almost always have a higher energy density and subsequently higher temperatures than conventional satellites, due to advances in solar cell technology and miniaturized electrical components. The introduction of propulsion modules and high-power electronics are also contributing factors. To tackle this energy density issue researchers narrowed their focus to a single-phase mechanically pumped fluid loop (MPFL).
At the heart of this NLR patented design is the multi-parallel micro pump. This novel pump design utilises a Piezo operated two-stroke system that transports heat through the use of a working fluid by heating it up at the heat source and then pumping that fluid to a heat sink, or radiator where it is then ejected into space. With its working prototype, NLR and ISIS have realised 20 watts of heat transport at a mass flow of 500 mg per second with a pump power consumption of just 0.2 watts – suitable for today’s thermal dissipation needs.