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Thermal Management for High Power SmallSats



OBJECTIVE: Develop thermal management technologies to enable high power (up to 1000 Watt) SmallSat missions, while minimizing size, weight, and power (SWaP). 

DESCRIPTION: Changing political and economic environments have resulted in a market for high performance SmallSats. Current thermal management technologies and architectures are optimized for large spacecraft, and are not well suited to supporting the requirements of high performance SmallSats. The goal of this effort is to develop and test a thermal management system capable of rejecting up to 1000 Watts from CubeSat to ESPA-class satellites. The thermal management subsystem should consume as little size, weight, and power (SWaP) as possible. Thermal control systems implementing thermal switching, energy storage, and/or other advanced concepts to accommodate both low and high-duty cycle, high-power missions are desired. It is envisioned that such a thermal control system could accommodate both a 1000 Watt peak power satellite communication mission (high-duty cycle) as well as a 1000 Watt peak power synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mission (low-duty cycle). The proposed solution shall be compatible with all Earth orbits and the harsh space environment (vacuum, radiation, free-fall, etc.). The thermal control system shall meet performance over an operating temperature range of 0°C to 80°C and must survive a temperature range of -60°C to 150°C. Passive (i.e. no input/control power) devices that can be tested in any orientation on Earth are preferred, but not required. Proposers are highly encouraged to team with systems integrators and payload providers to ensure applicability of their efforts and to provide a clear transition path. 

PHASE I: Develop conceptual design of the hardware based on preliminary analysis. Demonstrate by analysis and/or test the feasibility of such concepts to meet all requirements. 

PHASE II: Demonstrate the technology developed in Phase I. Tasks shall include, but are not limited to, a demonstration of key technical parameters that can be accomplished and a detailed performance analysis of the technology. The culmination of the Phase II effort shall include the hardware delivery of at least one prototype thermal management solution. 

PHASE III: Develop and produce at least one fully flight qualified high performance SmallSat bus and thermal management subsystem using the technology demonstrated during Phase II. Flight qualification testing includes vibration, thermal vacuum, and other relevant testing for the proposed technology. 


1. Gilmore, D. G., Spacecraft Thermal Control Handbook Volume I: Fundamental Technologies, 2nd Ed, The Aerospace Press, El Segundo, CA, 2002.; 2. Kemble, K., “AFRL Small Satellite Portfolio,” Ground System Architectures Workshop, Los Angeles, CA, 2015; 3. McNaul, E., “HaWK (High Watts per Kilogram Series of Solar Arrays,” Proceedings of AIAA/USU Small Satellite Conference 2015, The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Utah State University, Aug. 2015.; 4. Hengeveld, D.W., Wilson, M.R., Moulton, J.A., Taft, B.S., Kwas, A.M., “Thermal Design Considerations for Future High-Power Small Satellites,” 48th International Conference on Environmental Systems, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2018.

KEYWORDS: Thermal Management, SmallSat, Thermal Control 

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