A Morphing Radiator for High-Turndown Thermal Control of Crewed Space Exploration Vehicles Conference Paper uri icon


  • © 2015, by the American Institute. Spacecraft designed for missions beyond low earth orbit (LEO) face a difficult thermal control challenge, particularly in the case of crewed vehicles where the thermal control system (TCS) must maintain a relatively constant internal environment temperature despite a vastly varying external thermal environment and despite heat rejection needs that are contrary to the potential of the environment. A thermal control system may be required to reject a higher heat load to warm environments and a lower heat load to cold environments, necessitating a high turndown ratio. A modern thermal control system is capable of a turndown ratio on the order of 12:1, where crew safety and environment compatibility requirements lead to massive multi-loop fluid systems. This preliminary work for the first time discusses the analysis and prototype testing of a unique radiator design that employs the behavior of shape memory alloys (SMA) to vary the turndown of, and thus enable, a single-loop vehicle thermal control system for space exploration vehicles. This design, a morphing radiator, varies its shape in response to facesheet temperature to control view of space and primary surface emissivity. Because thermal-mechanical coupling is an inherent SMA behavior, the design requires no accommodation for control, instrumentation, nor power supply in order to operate. Thermal and radiation modeling of the morphing radiator predict a turndown ranging from 11.9:1 to 35:1 independent of TCS configuration. Stress and deformation analyses predict the desired morphing behavior of the concept. A system level mass analysis shows that by enabling a single loop architecture this design could reduce the TCS mass by ~25%. The concept is demonstrated in proof-of-concept benchtop tests.

author list (cited authors)

  • Cognata, T. J., Hartl, D. J., Sheth, R., & Dinsmore, C.

publication date

  • January 1, 2015 11:11 AM