Military Space Cryogenic Cooling Requirements for the 21st Century

  • Thom Davis
  • B. J. Tomlinson
  • Jim Ledbetter


Current space cryocooler developments have achieved performance and capability that have made the use of active refrigeration in space missions feasible. Space flight demonstrations such as the Sandia National Laboratory Cobra Brass and Multispectral Thermal Imager missions, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration SABER, Hyperion, and AIRS missions baselined and implemented active refrigeration to achieve mission goals. The NASA retrofit of the NICMOS cooling system on the Hubble Space Telescope, due to be installed during a 2001 servicing mission, will use a reverse Brayton cycle cryocooler to provide cooling for the NICMOS sensor due to a prematurely depleted cryogen dewar. These applications of cryocooler technology validate the improved mission capabilities and reliability and lifetime confidence in active refrigeration in space.

Past development efforts have focused primarily on reliability and the achievement of long life. However, looking ahead at 21 st century military space applications, there are improvements needed in several aspects of current cooling technology including higher capacity cooling loads, mass reduction, and improvement in efficiency, low temperature performance, and lifetimes greater than 10 years. In addition, cryogenic integration technology must be developed to allow efficient cryocooler to cooled component integration. Significant improvements in cryocooler technology can easily be overshadowed by gross parasitic heat loads and unacceptable cryogenic system penalties.

This paper focuses on mid-term and out-year cooling requirements for the Air Force Space Based Infrared System Low, Space Based Laser, Advanced Space Based Infrared System, and other Department of Defense space missions.


Pulse Tube Cryogenic System Loop Heat Pipe Thermal Switch Stirling Cycle 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thom Davis
    • 1
  • B. J. Tomlinson
    • 1
  • Jim Ledbetter
    • 2
  1. 1.Space Vehicles Directorate, Air Force Research LaboratoryKirtland AFB
  2. 2.Mission Research CorporationAlbuquerqueUSA

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