Complex products are best developed in a collaborative design environment where engineering data and CAD/CAE results can be shared across engineering discipline boundaries within a common software interface. A new software tool that allows Electro-Optical (EO) sensors to be developed in this manner has been used to conduct an integrated Structural/Thermal/Optical (STOP) analysis of a critical lens subassembly in a flight payload. This paper provides a description of the software environment and a summary of the technical results that were produced with it.

Despite recent advances in computer aided design (CAD) based tools, spacecraft thermal analysis remains outside the realm of finite element method (FEM) based analysis. The primary complaints against FEM often cited are:

Thermal engineering has long been left out of the concurrent engineering environment dominated by CAD (computer aided design) and FEM (finite element method) software.  Current tools attempt to force the thermal design process into an environment primarily created to support structural analysis, which results in inappropriate thermal models. As a result, many thermal engineers either build models “by hand” or use geometric user interfaces that are separate from and have little useful connection, if any, to CAD and FEM systems.