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AF Research Lab, Industry Partners Send Thermal Control Tech to Space

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The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), ThermAvant Technologies and Maxar Technologies deployed a satellite with oscillating heat pipes (OHP) into orbit during the second quarter of the year.

AFRL said Monday that Maxar-built spacecraft carries the thermal control system jointly developed by the U.S. Air Force’s research organization and ThermAvant to transfer heat that moves within the hardware microchannels.

“The on-orbit operation of OHPs marks an important milestone in the technology transition,” said Jon Allison, the thermal thrust lead for the AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate’s Spacecraft Component Technology Branch.

Allison forecasts the technology to play a role in spacecraft architecture development efforts over the next two decades.

The laboratory tested preliminary OHP designs as part of the 2012 microgravity aircraft flight program, dubbed Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader (ASETS), and the 2017 ASETS-II experiment on the Boeing X-37B orbital test vehicle.