Demonstration of a Rapidly Configurable Modular Isothermal Thermal Control System, for Operationally Responsive Space Applications

Period of Performance: 02/12/2009 - 02/11/2010


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Mainstream Engineering Corporation
200 Yellow Place Array
Rockledge, FL 32955
Principal Investigator


This proposal discusses a scalable modular ORS Thermal Control approach that can provide flexible, lightweight, compact, thermal control systems. This effort will demonstrate that a thermal control system can be configured and assembled in days instead of years. Phase I will demonstrate the critical aspects of this approach (low power consumption, isothermal cold plates & radiators, simple reconfiguration) and the applicability to small ORS satellite applications. The thermal management system is created from a toolbox of components, which significantly reduces the time necessary to develop thermal control systems for new satellites. This approach would also allow a method to continually update and integrate specific improvements in any area of the system (i.e., improved radiators, improved cold plates, etc.) as the technology becomes available. Phase I includes the fabrication of some limited modules and the demonstration of the ability to quickly assemble these modules into high-performance thermal control systems, which can achieve ORS requirements. This effort will also demonstrate that the power consumption of the completed active thermal control systems is less than 2% of their cooling load. This Phase I is significant because a demonstration of the potential for ORS thermal systems will be achieved before proceeding to Phase II. BENEFIT: In future conflicts military space force will likely face challenges ranging from defending against opposing systems to dealing with rapidly changing technology and support needs. The Air Force describes its vision for responding to these challenges as Operationally Responsive Space (ORS). The goal of ORS is to provide an affordable capability to promptly accurately and decisively position and operate assets in space. ORS needs a modular quickly configurable thermal control system to help enable the six day satellite. Thermal control systems that take years to design and fabricate cannot be tolerated if the ORS approach is to succeed. Therefore, the commercialization potential of the proposed modular isothermal low-power-consumption thermal control system is tremendous. Spacecraft bus concepts offer the possibility of instantly customizing a spacecraft to meet a specific need on an accelerated timeline while keeping costs below existing equivalent-capability costs[ Doggrell, L., Operationally Responsive Space A Vision for the Future of Military Space, Air & Space Power Journal, Summer 2006]. Mainstream will demonstrate one key spacecraft bus concept, namely the thermal bus, which can be quickly customized from a tool box of components allowing assembly and check-out in days instead of years. Clearly, Mainstreams proposed approach is a significant step toward the ORS goal of eliminating the process of re-inventing the wheel for each satellite thermal control application.