Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Dr. Kira Abercromby


Spacecraft are subject to different environments while on orbit around the Earth and beyond. One of the most critical of these environments that must be counteracted is the thermal environment. Each spacecraft has an operating temperature that is specified in the mission requirements. The requirement stems from internal component operating temperatures that are critical to mission success. Prior to placing the spacecraft in orbit, engineers must be sure that the spacecraft will survive or risk losing the mission entirely.

The primary way to mitigate this risk is to use a thermal vacuum chamber (TVAC). The chamber is designed to resemble a space environment by reducing the pressure within the chamber to 1e-6 Torr. The differentiating factor between a vacuum chamber and a thermal vacuum chamber is the ability for the TVAC to complete a process known as thermal cycling using a temperature controller. Thermal cycling begins at a set temperature and increases within the chamber to a designated hot temperature expected to be seen on orbit. After the maximum temperature is reached, it remains there for a specified amount of time in what is called a soak. The controller then reduces the temperature to a specified cold temperature where a second soak takes place. Finally, the temperature is returned to the initial temperature and the process is repeated for a number of cycles until testing is complete.

For the purpose of this thesis, only the initial temperature increase and the first soak are being investigated. The chamber being used to run these experiments was graciously donated by MDA US Systems, however, no additional documentation was provided with the chamber. The Two identical black coated aluminum and brass cylinders have been chosen to be run with three different temperature profiles. The profiles are manually designed in the temperature controller on the chamber and vary by final soak temperature. To supplement the testing, simulations have been created for each test case in order to verify the computer model of the chamber. The simulations utilize AutoCad and Thermal Desktop to provide the results for comparison.

Each of the tests were completed successfully and produced good results that corresponded well to the simulation. The largest difference between the simulation cylinder temperature and the experimental cylinder temperature was 1.9 $^{\circ}$C. The effectiveness and efficiency of the blue chamber was compared to the other thermal vacuum chamber in the Space Environments lab. Overall, the Blue Chamber proved to be more robust and much easier to operate than the HVEC thermal vacuum chamber.

Included in

Astrodynamics Commons