Thermal Design Assessment of a Water Based Fusible Heat Sink Radiator for Space Exploration Missions
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The use of a heat rejection apparatus that can act as both an energy capacitor and a radiator has the potential to provide many functions in an exploration-class space vehicle. In this concept, water is used as a thermal capacitor or buffer material within the structure of the radiator panel. The radiator provides heat rejection to the local environment while the water stores or releases excess thermal energy passively. While the water’s use in this case is primarily for thermal control, the reservoir also acts as a radiation barrier for crew protection through those surfaces, and is inherently a contingency water reservoir. This paper provides an overview of recent thermal analysis work and the associated functional capability with the current design. The current design was developed such that the water would function predominantly as a sensible thermal capacitor versus a latent thermal capacitor during crewed operations in a deep space environment. This allows the radiator to operate at higher temperatures and reduces the likelihood of freezing the entire water volume during nominal operations. The desire is for the mechanical design to be freeze-tolerant, versus being required to operate with daily complete freeze and thaw cycles of the water volume where increased mechanical fatigue may be expected. The evaluated architecture and radiator design allows for single loop operations and is a viable technology candidate for relatively low power vehicles. Future work to refine the mechanical design through analysis and testing is outlined.