A study of the mechanical systems contributing to the design and performance of a picosatellite’s mission in low-Earth orbit (LEO) was performed through design and analysis. The unique architecture of this satellite stems from a form factor established by the internationally recognized CubeSat Program. This CubeSat-Plus architecture limits the satellite’s size to be no larger than a 10 x 10 x 15 cm cube with an overall mass not exceeding 2 kg.

Advances in computer technologies and manufacturing processes allow creation of highly sophisticated components in compact platform. For example, a small scale satellite, such as the CubeSat, can now be used for scientific research in space rather than big scale project like the International Space Station (ISS). Recently a team of undergraduate and graduate students at SJSU has the opportunity to collaborate on designing and building a miniature size CubeSat with the dimension of 10x10x10 cm.

Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are replacing the Nickel–Hydrogen batteries used on the International Space Station (ISS). Knowing that LIB efficiency and survivability are greatly influenced by temperature, this study focuses on the thermo-electrochemical analysis of LIBs in space orbit. Current finite element modeling software allows for advanced simulation of the thermo-electrochemical processes; however the heat transfer simulation capabilities of said software suites do not allow for the extreme complexities of orbital-space environments like those experienced by the ISS.

Structural and thermal engineers currently work independently of each other using unrelated tools, models, and methods. Without the ability to rapidly exchange design data and predicted performance, the achievement of the ideals of concurrent engineering is not possible.

Thermal analysis is typically performed using a point design approach, where a single model is analyzed one analysis case at a time. Changes to the system design are analyzed by updating the thermal radiation and conduction models by hand, which can become a bottleneck when attempting to adopt a concurrent engineering approach. This paper presents the parametric modeling features that have been added to Thermal DesktopTM to support concurrent engineering. The thermal model may now be characterized by a set of design variables that are easily modified to reflect system level design changes.

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.