In an effort to address current technical gaps in thermal management systems for small spacecraft, Roccor proposes to raise the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of FlexCool, a promising extremely thin (< 1 mm), easily bent, high heat flux, heat pipe. The heat pipe proposed for this effort will undergo several environmental tests to qualify its use for flight and a microgravity test. Roccor has been working closely with NASA’s TechEdSat group to identify a possible flight opportunity on the TechEdSat 10 mission, a 3U CubeSat launched from the International Space Station. The FlexCool Heat pipe will cool the radio transponder. Under this partnership, Roccor will carry out the design, build, leak tests, thermal performance tests, freeze/thaw tests, and thermal/pressure cycling tests. The prototype will then be delivered to the TechEdSat group to carry out the remainder of the environmental tests. However, the TechEdSat platform does not provide a platform to characterize and understand critical heat pipe behaviors such as startup from a cold state when exiting eclipse or pulsing on a high power load. Perhaps most critically, the behavior of a heat pipe changes in a microgravity environment and full flight qualification would be achieved in Phase II, enabling FlexCool to become a new standard for fast, inexpensive integration on emerging power hungry commercial SmallSats and NASA CubeSat science platforms.
In addition to working with the TechEdSat group, SEAKR Engineering has agreed to be a subcontractor to derive requirements relevant to their commercial products. SEAKR is a leading supplier of innovative spacecraft electronics. By feeding requirements for some of their architectures SEAKR will gain an enabling technology and Roccor will advance the path to the commercialization of FlexCool technology in relevant space systems like the RCC-5 reconfigurable computer module.
The primary NASA target application for the proposed space-rated FlexCool™ flexible thermal strap technology is future NASA CubeSat and SmallSat spacecraft for which thermal control of on-board electronics is a major bottleneck in the system design. The proposed technology will enable efficient heat transfer by dissipating a wide range of heat loads in widely varying environments.
Non-NASA applications include military and commercial aviation, military electronics and consumer electronics. The most prevalent applications with future commercial partners include internet from space constellations and Earth imaging. Electronics cooling is a large commercial and defense market that could benefit from high conductivity materials developed under the program.