Use of Mechanical Heat Switch to Speed up TVAC Transitions on Flight Hardware Below 200K



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50th International Conference on Environmental Systems


Spaceflight hardware that operates at temperatures well below room temperature usually require being well isolated from their warmer environment in order to manage thermal parasitics adequately. This is especially true for spaceflight systems that rely on passive cooling such as a radiator. During ground testing, this design configuration can be problematic for TVAC cycling between operational temperature extremes, since the hardware temperatures may move extremely slowly and lengthen the duration of an already expensive and heavily staffed system-level TVAC campaign. One of the challenges of using an external means of speeding up temperature transitions is that a TVAC campaign usually also requires the simulation of flight-like environments to validate the design, and introducing a test feature to speed up transitions can disrupt the system such that flight-like environments aren�t achievable.

Such an approach is being considered for use during the L�Ralph instrument level TVAC test. L�Ralph is a passively cooled instrument on the Lucy mission with planned flyby�s of the Trojan asteroids around 5.5 AU. The optics and visible detector are cooled below 190K, and the IR detector is cooled below 110K. During instrument TVAC qualification testing, a mechanical motor-controlled heat switch uses clamping pressure via a vise grip mechanism to achieve faster temperature transitions by increasing the conduction to a cold sink. The heat switch system then disengages and employs zero-Q controls to achieve flight-like thermal environments for thermal balance plateaus. Results from stand-alone testing of the heat switch are discussed, including correlated on/off ratios and the expected conductance across its operational temperature range.


Juan Rodriguez, NASA GSFC
Daniel Bae, NASA GSFC
ICES203: Thermal Testing
The 50th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held virtually on 12 July 2021 through 14 July 2021.


thermal, heat switch, LRalph, TVAC