With the CubeSat market expanding and with CubeSats entering the high-performance domain (to 6U, 12U and 16U) the thermal problems of CubeSats get more prominent. A result of the shift towards high-performance missions leads to stricter thermal requirements as the power density increases and the usual low cost thermal design strategies appear insufficient.
An innovative modular thermal approach is developed in this research. In order to provide relevant input for improved thermal design of CubeSats, the presented research is initiated by ISIS in cooperation with NLR, to introduce a fast modular approach for thermal orbital modelling using ESATAN-TMS. This approach will aid in defining the thermal criticalities and developing solutions.
A key characteristic of this innovative modular approach is that the thermal submodels are made interchangeable and easily scalable, allowing for fast thermal analysis for LEO missions. The geometry of a CubeSat can quickly be adapted by implementation of submodels of thermal components, standard units and payload units in the CubeSat-frame model. A library of thermal submodels has been created, based on geometry and thermal characteristics, which will be presented.
The introduction of standardized thermal submodels for CubeSat systems results in fast thermal orbital analysis and quick evaluation of thermal design strategies. For verification of the standardized submodels, we propose dedicated thermal vacuum and thermal balance tests of CubeSat structural components and units. In case the submodels are validated with test results, they allow for more accurate thermal analysis and improved evaluation of thermal design strategies for CubeSat systems. In this way, for the first time, CubeSat thermal engineering can be executed by making use of verified models and data, which has been lacking throughout the community. Hereby, the confidence in the thermal analyses performed for CubeSats is significantly increased.