Influence of Orbit and Thermal Design Parameters on the Temperature Behaviour of CubeSats - Implications for Thermal Analysis and Thermal Hardware Demands



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


2020 International Conference on Environmental Systems


In this paper we investigate the impact of different parameters on the thermal behavior of common CubeSats. Thermal aspects are often treated as an afterthought in the design process of CubeSats. In the past, CubeSats were often deployed in ISS orbits or typical sun-synchronous earth observation orbits. A favorable CubeSat power dissipation to surface area ratio in combination with thermally benign orbits lead to comfortable thermal conditions for CubeSats. As a consequence, thermal engineering capabilities for CubeSats are not as developed in the CubeSat community as other engineering fields. We present the results of a parametric study of a generic 3U CubeSat. We varied orbit altitude and inclination, LTAN, internal dissipation, and external optical surface properties. Based on this, we quantify the contribution to the maximum predicted temperature range, gradient and stability. For comparison, a 6U CubeSat was modelled and simulated to see how the size of a CubeSat influences its temperature. The biggest influence on the overall temperature of the internal PCBs of the 3U CubeSat is the heat dissipation. An increase of 5 W results in an increase of the average internal temperature between 10 and 18 K. Differences in the outer surface α/ε ratio impacts the temperature by up 22 K. The orbit height only accounts to a temperature change of < 2 K, while the change of the LTAN can lead to a change of the average temperature of 15 to 31 K. Finally, a sensitivity analysis was conducted to showing the modelling uncertainty to be in the range of 9 to 11 K. This paper aims at raising the awareness for the need and significance of thermal design, analysis and test of CubeSats alongside an upcoming need for CubeSat sized and styled thermal control hardware.


Philipp Hager, European Space Agency (ESA), NL
Katja Janzer, European Space Agency (ESA), NL
ICES107: Thermal Design of Microsatellites, Nanosatellites, and Picosatellites
The proceedings for the 2020 International Conference on Environmental Systems were published from July 31, 2020. The technical papers were not presented in person due to the inability to hold the event as scheduled in Lisbon, Portugal because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.


CubeSat, Thermal analysis, Parameter analysis