Heat Pipes for TSAT

Lockheed Martin has successfully demonstrated high performance radiator technology for the Transformational Satellite Communications System TSAT constellation.

Developed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Sunnyvale, Calif. and Thermacore, Inc. of Lancaster, Pa., the High Performance Loop Heat Pipe (HP-LHP) Deployable Radiator System has been demonstrated to significantly improve the heat dissipation capability over existing systems.

The HP-LHP, designed and matured for TSAT, will provide substantially more radiator area, resulting in a cooler, more stable thermal environment for Lockheed Martin’s A2100 spacecraft bus and the communications payload provided by Northrop Grumman.

“This represents another major risk reduction milestone for TSAT," said Mark Pasquale, Lockheed Martin’s TSAT vice president. "Our unique approach will afford greater reliability and longevity for TSAT’s critical components and serves as another example of our thorough preparation and readiness to proceed with the next phase of this critical communications program."

A loop heat pipe is:

a two-phase heat transfer device that uses capillary action to remove heat from a source and passively move it to a condenser or radiator. LHPs are similar to heat pipes but have the advantage of being able provide reliable operation over long distance and the ability to operate against gravity.

For a more detailed description of the technology, check this out.

Either Lockheed Martin or Boeing will be awarded the multi-billion dollar contract for TSAT this fall. Because of the high stakes surrounding the contract, the Air Force has asked the Pentagon to conduct an independent review of the bids.

TSAT is entwined with another pricey satellite program, the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite program, run by Lockheed.

The Air Force told Congress earlier this month that the AEHF program had exceeded congressional caps on cost growth, which could lead to cancellation of the program unless it is certified as essential for national security reasons.

The cost of the AEHF program was now projected to be $9.2 billion, including $2 billion for a fourth satellite added to the Pentagon’s budget by Congress, accounting for about 80 percent of the overall cost increase.

TSAT is intended to follow AEHF and shares some of the same protected communications job. Congress added the fourth satellite — which requires a costly restart of Lockheed’s production line — due to concerns about a gap in providing satellite communications capability to troops if there was a delay in the TSAT program.

The timeline for the launch of TSAT has been a tricky thing to pin down. It was initially planned for 2009. However, a senior Air Force official told Aviation Week that it might be pushed as late as 2018.

I, for one, can’t wait until this program is up and running. It’s pretty amazing technology, as we’ve mentioned before.