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SLAC picks Daat for satellite thermal consulting

Courtesy of Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center) and NASA are building the satellite that will transport to outer space the 'grand observatory' for mapping gamma-ray bursts. This telescope known as GLAST, acronym for Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, will deliver 50x the resolution of the existing EGRET project and will probe the mechanisms of particle acceleration, investigate dark matter and the early Universe, and advance science's knowledge of black holes.

The telescope will collect incoming gamma-ray signals from outer space and feed them into a 850,000 channel data acquisition system. The system will sift through the data, determining what looks promising and what should be discarded. When an interesting signal is detected, the system will orient the telescope to face the source.

The 300-watt data acquisition system will be cooled by heat pipes controlled by shutoff valves that automatically thermally stabilize the electronics at approximately 15 deg. C. The heat pipes will transfer operational heat from the electronics to solar panel radiators for dissipation into space. The goal is to hold system temperature to within +/- 1 deg. C, because large thermal gradients can cause bending and warping of the detectors. But designers also must prepare for the worst. If one of the 8 square meter solar arrays fails to open, or if a heat pipe fails, temperatures could vary anywhere -40 deg C. to 55 deg. C.

To verify the system's thermal design across the full temperature spectrum, SLAC enlisted Daat Research Corp. consulting services. Daat built accurate and fast Coolit simulations based on imported SolidWorks models and searched for potential hot spots in each of the system's 12 electronic modules. The Coolit analyses proved the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope would handle even the worst-case conditions.

Spectrum Astro rendering of the GLAST spacecraft in orbit above the Earth.

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