Advancements in satellite technologies are increasing the power density of electronics and payloads. When the power consumption increases within a limited volume, waste heat generation also increases and this necessitates a proper and efficient thermal management system. Mostly, micro and nanosatellites use passive thermal control methods because of the low cost, no additional power requirement, ease of implementation, and better thermal performance. Passive methods lack the ability to meet certain thermal requirements on larger and smaller satellite platforms.

Traditionally, the preliminary thermal design is behind the mechanical and electrical spacecraft design. Many factors contribute to this including a lack of detailed physical characteristics of the spacecraft and knowledge of the distribution of the thermal loads within the spacecraft. Therefore, the thermal design typically reacts to the mechanical and electrical designs. The thermal analyst gets a configuration and then tries to wrap an acceptable solution around it.

This paper summarizes the thermal math model correlation effort for the Fast Affordable Science and Technology SATellite (FASTSAT-HSV01), which was designed, built and tested by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and multiple partners. The satellite launched in November 2010 on a Minotaur IV rocket from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Kodiak, Alaska. It carried three Earth science experiments and two technology demonstrations into a low Earth circular orbit with an inclination of 72° and an altitude of 650 kilometers.

Recent years have witnessed more improvement to the SINDA/FLUINT thermohydraulic analyzer than at any other time in its long history. These improvements have included not only expansions in analytic power, but also the additions of high-level modules that offer revolutions in thermal/ fluid engineering itself.

The primary thermal management issue associated with Space Solar Power (SSP) is the need to acquire, transport and reject waste heat loads, on the order of 3.8 GW, from the transmitter to remote radiator locations. Previous conceptual studies have focused on transporting these loads to large remote radiators. These concepts assumed the ability to transport the heat either passively or mechanical over large transport distances of 100 meters or more.

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.