Objective:The objective is to study the use of heat pipes as structural elements in order to stiffen the spacecraft structure.
Targeted Improvements:Mass reduction of 20% of structure elements with respect to state of the art current architecture (due to less conservative design)Reduction Assembly and Integration complexity (as heat pipes could replace some existing structural brackets).
Description:In current spacecraft design, structural strength of the satellite is primarily attributed to the main structural elements; namely the central tube, various panels, and mechanical brackets/joints. Heat pipes are typically rigid metallic (aluminium alloy) tubes that are attached to structural/equipment panels, radiators and equipment. However, their mechanical stiffness is not considered in the structural analysis, leading to satellite structure designs that are overly conservative, and hence include unnecessary mass.
The proposed idea is to consider the structural strength/stiffness available in heat pipes and apply this in structural calculations.
Heat pipes are embedded/surface mounted to panels and equipment to provide good thermal contact. They are not currently designed to carry mechanical loads; hence, aspects of the heat pipe design may need to be modified. These mountings would need to be assessed to ensure that loads could also safely be passed without impacting the thermal interface. Replacement of brackets between adjacent panels with heat pipes as structural members shall be considered.
Heat pipes breadboards will be developed, manufactured andthe effects of mechanically loading heat pipes in multiple configurations will be tested. Adaptations necessary to the heat pipes will be considered. Finally, the results will be evaluated to assess the impact of considering the mechanical benefits of heat pipes in future spacecraft structural designs.