Stability requirements of current and future ESA projects are getting ever more challenging, with thermo elastic distortion and strength playing a dominant role on the final performance. Compliance to those requirements is usually verified only through analytical models that are not correlated with regard to their validity for thermo-elastic predictions, leaving not quantified uncertainties in the results and possible surprises in flight.
Thales Alenia Space started in 2017, under ESA TRP contract, to work on the improvement of the predictive capability of thermo-elastic analyses for distortion and strength and their verification, adopting a truly cross disciplinary approach between the thermal and mechanical domains.
The activity splits into four main steps, 1) collection of past lessons learnt, 2) identification, elaboration and implementation of methods able to improve end-to-end prediction and verification, both for analysis and test, of thermo-elastic behavior (strength and stability) of spacecraft structures, 3) demonstration of the identified methods on an application case including a test and 4) dissemination of these methods to the European space community, such that they can be implemented by any stakeholder.
This paper presents the results of the first three steps, focusing on the testing aspects and giving highlights on the activities to be completed at the end of this year.