Developing a Standardized Approach for the Thermal Analysis of Spacecraft Electronics



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


48th International Conference on Environmental Systems


RAL Space, part of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), design, build, and test a range of ground and space-based instrumentation and equipment. Among these projects are those that require the detailed thermal analysis of sophisticated spacecraft electronics, which must capture the hot spots caused by high power dissipating components on the printed circuit boards. Two recent examples at RAL Space involve the analysis of electronics for the MetOp Second Generation and the World Space Observatory programs. As the power density of electronics is expected to continue increasing, the accurate thermal modelling of such systems is of growing importance. However, there remains a significant uncertainty in many aspects of the analysis, such as the conductive coupling of individual components to boards and a difficulty in characterizing the thermal properties of the boards themselves. Empirical data gathered during recent projects suggests that the current approach may be too conservative. However, in the interests of thermal model accuracy and stability, it is important to avoid over-complex modelling methods. The authors have undertaken a critical review of the RAL Space approach to this problem in order to produce a formal procedure in line with the ISO9001 standards that the organization is accredited to. This procedure aims to present the best practice, and outlines a recommended set of guidelines to be followed when performing such analyses. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the findings of the team tasked with producing this document, review available literature published in this field, and justify the final guidelines adopted within the procedure. Also examined are the unresolved issues surrounding the modelling of electronics and the mitigating actions suggested to reduce future design risk.


Tom Mccarron, RAL Space
Samuel Tustain, RAL Space
ICES105: Thermal Standards and Design/Development Practices
The 48th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA on 08 July 2018 through 12 July 2018.


Standards, Procedure, Electronics, PCB, Thermal Analysis Simulation