Analysis of a space experimental design for high-Tc superconductive thermal bridges

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Virginia Tech

Infrared sensor satellites are used to monitor the conditions in the earth's upper atmosphere. In these systems, the electronic links connecting the cryogenically cooled infrared detectors to the significantly warmer amplification electronics act as thermal bridges and, consequently, the mission lifetimes of the satellites are limited due to cryogenic evaporation. High-temperature superconductor (HTS) materials have been proposed by researchers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Langley's Research Center (NASA-LaRC) as an alternative to the currently used manganin wires for electrical connection. The potential for using HTS films as thermal bridges has provided the motivation for the design and the analysis of a spaceflight experiment to evaluate the performance of this superconductive technology in the space environment The initial efforts were focused on the preliminary design of the experimental system which allows for the quantitative comparison of superconductive leads with manganin leads, and on the thermal conduction modeling of the proposed system (Lee, 1994). Most of the HTS materials were indicated to be potential replacements for the manganin wires. In the continuation of this multi-year research, the objectives of this study were to evaluate the sources of heat transfer on the thermal bridges that have been neglected in the preliminary conductive model and then to develop a methodology for the estimation of the thermal conductivities of the HTS thennal bridges in space.

The Joule heating created by the electrical current through the manganin wires was incorporated as a volumetric heat source into the manganin conductive model. The radiative heat source on the HTS thermal bridges was determined by performing a separate radiant interchange analysis within a high-Tc superconductor housing area. Both heat sources indicated no significant contribution on the cryogenic heat load, which validates the results obtained in the preliminary conduction model.

A methodology was presented for the estimation of the thermal conductivities of the individual HTS thermal bridge materials and the effective thermal conductivities of the composite HTS thermal bridges as functions of temperature. This methodology included a sensitivity analysis and the demonstration of the estimation procedure using simulated data with added random errors. The thermal conductivities could not be estimated as functions of temperature; thus the effective thermal conductivities of the HTS thermal bridges were analyzed as constants.