Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Kira Abercromby


Propulsive capabilities on a CubeSat are the next step in advancement in the Aerospace Industry. This is no longer a quest that is being sought by just university programs, but a challenge that is being taken on by all of the industry due to the low-cost missions that can be accomplished. At this time, all of the proposed micro-thruster systems still require some form of development or testing before being flight-ready. Stellar Exploration, Inc. is developing a monopropellant micropropulsion system designed specifically for CubeSat application.

The addition of a thruster to a CubeSat would expand the possibilities of what CubeSat missions are capable of achieving. The development of these miniature systems comes with many challenges. One of the largest challenges that a hot thruster faces is the ability to complete burns for the specified mission without transferring excessive heat into the propulsion tank. Due to the close proximity of the thruster to the tank, thermal standoff options are necessary to help alleviate the heat going through the system, especially while in a thermally extreme environment. This thesis examines the heat transfer that occurs within a CubeSat with an operating hydrazine monopropellant thruster.

Thermal analysis of the system revealed that having a solid stainless steel barrier between the thruster and tank led to increasing temperatures greater than 400K in the propellant tank while in an environment exposed to the sun. This creates a large amount of risk for the CubeSat and its mission. The use of a thermal insulating material or a hollow barrier for the standoff decreased the risk of using this system. This creates a standoff where the heat of the propellant reaction does not reach the propellant in the tank. Therefore, the maximum temperature that the tank reaches is equivalent to the temperature of the external environment while in extreme conditions. These results create the confidence that the thermal standoffs will function as intended to protect the spacecraft and its payload during flight.