Heat pipe technology

Heat pipes are highly efficient heat transfer devices based on a continuous evaporation/condensation cycle of a suitable working fluid inside a hermetically sealed container - They have found widespread application on nearly all space missions.

ESA has funded the development of various types of heat pipes and working fluids since early 1970s (gas-controlled heat pipes, diode heat pipes, artery heat pipes, axially-grooved heat pipes, cryogenic heat pipes, pulsating heat pipes, etc).

Today’s telecom spacecraft use large numbers of heat pipe devices to uniformise the payload base-plate temperature in contact with the heat pipe flanges, to transport heat from dissipating equipment to radiators and to spread this heat within the radiators.

The level of powerful electronic systems being integrated into modern communications and scientific research satellites is still increasing, and the improved processing power and electronics speed gives rise to the generation of more unwanted heat which needs to be dissipated by radiator panels into deep space.

Heat pipes can also be built in rather small sizes (mini/micro heat pipes) for integration into electronic units or for the cooling of small/mini satellites.

Heat pipes can be designed to provide either a constant thermal conductance or a variable thermal conductance between the evaporating and condensing sections depending on the intended thermal application on-board the spacecraft.
Last update: 27 March 2007

Related articles

 •  Constant conductance heat pipe (http://www.esa.int/TEC/Thermal_control/SEMAWPBE8YE_0.html)
 •  Variable conductance heat pipe (http://www.esa.int/TEC/Thermal_control/SEM1GPBE8YE_0.html)
 •  Capillary-pumped two-phase heat transport technology (http://www.esa.int/TEC/Thermal_control/SEMMERBE8YE_0.html)