Spacecraft Thermal Control

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Spacecraft Thermal Control

2-Day Course


This is a fast paced two-day course for system engineers and managers with an interest in improving their understanding of spacecraft thermal design. All phases of thermal design analysis are covered in enough depth to give a deeper understanding of the design process and of the materials used in thermal design. Program managers and systems engineers will also benefit from the bigger picture information and tradeoff issues. The goal is to have the student come away from this course with an understanding of how analysis, design, thermal devices, thermal testing and the interactions of thermal design with the overall system design fit into the overall picture of satellite design. Case studies and lessons learned illustrate the importance of thermal design and the current state of the art.

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  • How requirements are defined.
  • Why thermal design cannot be purchased off the shelf.
  • How to test thermal systems.
  • Basic conduction and radiation analysis.
  • Overall thermal analysis methods.
  • Computer calculations for thermal design.
  • How to choose thermal control surfaces.
  • When to use active devices.
  • How the thermal system interacts with other systems.
  • How to apply thermal devices.
  1. The Role of Thermal Control. Requirements, Constraints, Regimes of thermal control.

  2. The basics of Thermal Analysis, conduction, radiation, Energy balance, Numerical analysis, The solar spectrum.

  3. Overall Thermal Analysis. Orbital mechanics for thermal engineers, Basic orbital energy balance.

  4. Model Building. How to choose the nodal structure, how to calculate the conductors capacitors and Radfacs, Use of the computer.

  5. System Interactions. Power, Attitude and Thermal system interactions, other system considerations.

  6. Thermal Control Surfaces. Availability, Factors in choosing, Stability, Environmental factors.

  7. Thermal control Devices. Heatpipes, MLI, Louvers, Heaters, Phase change devices, Radiators.

  8. Thermal Design Procedure. Basic design procedure, Choosing radiator locations, When to use heat pipes, When to use louvers, Where to use MLI, When to use Phase change, When to use heaters.

  9. Thermal Testing. Thermal requirements, basic analysis techniques, the thermal design process, thermal control materials and devices, and thermal vacuum testing.

  10. Case Studies. The key topics and tradeoffs are illustrated by case studies for actual spacecraft and satellite thermal designs. Systems engineering implications.

If this course is not on the current schedule of open enrollment courses and you are interested in attending this or another course as an open enrollment, please contact us at (410) 956-8805 or Please indicate the course name, number of students who wish to participate. and a preferred time frame. ATI typically schedules open enrollment courses with a 3-5 month lead time. For on-site pricing, you can use the request an on-site quote form, call us at (410) 956-8805, or email us at


Carol L. Mosier

Carol L. Mosier, NASA Emeritus, has over 30 years of experience in the field of thermal engineering. Ms. Mosier was a 2017 recipient of NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, for her key contributions to mission success, thermal software development, and thermal training. Her diverse work portfolio includes a variety of instrument, balloncraft, and spacecraft systems, operating in cryogenic, convective and high-temperature environments and enabling more than twenty missions ranging from technology demonstrations to Earth and interplanetary science. Ms. Mosier is experienced in all aspects of thermal engineering, including design, analysis, requirements development, integration, testing, and flight operations. Ms. Mosier’s educational activities included developing and teaching thermal design classes for the Goddard Space Flight Center, University of Maryland, NASA Engineering & Safety Center, and Thermal and Fluids Analysis Workshops (TFAWS).

Carl J. Ercol

Carl J. (Jack) Ercol is a member of the Principal Professional Staff at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and is also a non-NASA member of the NESC Passive Thermal Control Technical Discipline Team. He is the supervisor of the Thermal Design and Analysis section in the space department's Mechanical Systems group. Jack received a BSME from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in 1982 and an MSME from the University of Maryland in 1985 where his graduate study was in energy conversion and thermodynamics. He has worked at APL since August, 1991, serving as the lead thermal control engineer for the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR-Shoemaker) spacecraft, MESSENGER, the first spacecraft to orbit the planet Mercury, and the Pluto bound New Horizons spacecraft. He is currently the leading spacecraft thermal control design and the Solar Array Cooling System (SACS) efforts for the Solar Probe Plus (SPP) spacecraft that has an orbit perihelion of 9.8 R s . Before working at APL, Mr. Ercol was employed at the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) were he began his career as a spacecraft thermal control engineer.

Gary A. Holtzman

Gary A. (Allan) Holtzman is a member of the Senior Professional Staff at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in the Thermal Design and Analysis section in the space department's Mechanical Systems group. Allan received a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1994 and an MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Austin in 1998. He has worked at APL since June of 2010, serving as the lead thermal spacecraft engineer for the MESSENGER spacecraft during its extended mission in orbit about Mercury. He is currently leading the solar array thermal effort on the Europa spacecraft, and working on the solar array cooling system for the Solar Probe Plus (SPP) spacecraft. Before working at APL, he worked at Harris Corporation as a thermal engineer.

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