Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Kira Abercromby


Spacecraft testing includes acoustics, vibrations, and thermal vacuum. Cal Poly’s Space Environments Lab is equipped with multiple vacuum chambers, but no thermal vacuum chamber. The purpose of this thesis is to incorporate an ATS Chiller system with the HVEC vacuum chamber so students are able to experiment with a thermal vacuum chamber. The ATS Chiller had leaky pipes that needed to be refurbished and a shroud was implemented to improve thermal capabilities of the system. The full system was able to reach temperatures as low as -38ºC and as high as 58ºC at a pressure of 10-6 Torr. The ATS Chiller was able to absorb up to 500W of heat dissipation from a component mounted to the platen inside of the vacuum chamber.

Thermal modeling of the apparatus was performed in Thermal Desktop. The model was incorporated with the test data to extract interface resistance information between connected surfaces. Another model is used to analyze a theoretical component inside the apparatus to evaluate mounting methods and determine theoretical temperatures of the component. The model adjusts for material properties, including thermal conductivity and emissivity to accurately simulate testing conditions within +/- 3ºC.

Platen and shroud adjustments were able to accommodate a peak bake out temperature of 130±2.2℃ of any component without damage to the system. Three temperature cycles were performed by the thermal vacuum chamber to reach extreme temperatures of 58℃ and -38. A 300 Watt heater was used to simulate component heat dissipation for the duration of the test.

Furthermore, this thesis lays out further possibilities for thermal testing using the HVEC Vacuum chamber and ATS chiller as a thermal vacuum chamber.