Wright-Patterson AFB Hosts Thermal System Modeling Course

Matt Moran, Managing Partner at Isotherm Energy, taught his two day course on thermal system modeling at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) on Sep 11-12, 2017. Civilian and military engineers involved in spacecraft thermal control attended the course.

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Below is a screeenshot from one of the many application examples presented to demonstrate how to use the techniques taught in the course. This model was created for a USAF solar orbit transfer vehicle concept for boosting satellites into higher orbit to extend their useful life. A solar concentrator is used to drive a Thermoacoustic Stirling Heat Engine (TASHE) based on DOE technology, which in turn powers a two stage pulse tube cryocooler based on NIST technology. The cryocooler, along with other advanced thermal management techniques, maintains the hydrogen propellant in cryogenic liquid condition. When the SOTV attaches to the spacecraft being boosted, the solar concentrator is articulated to be used for its secondary function - heating the hydrogen as it passes through a nozzle for propulsion. The TASHE and integrated cryocooler were designed, built and successfully tested based in part on the results from this model.

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Another example application was a cryogenic system design tool originally created for the Missile Defense Agency for a space-based laser concept (see screenshot below). This model performs engineering trades and optimization based on: orbital sink temperatures, insulation configuration, fluid type, operating temperatures and pressures, tank material and structures, tank geometry, and active cooling options. The versatility of the model allowed its continued use for a variety of other projects.

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In addition to aerospace applications, Isotherm Energy has leveraged its experience with power and propulsion systems to address emerging energy sector challenges. Many of the capabilities shown in the above models have direct application in sustainable energy systems, such as: solar concentrators, heat engines, combined heat & power, and energy storage (e.g. hydrogen, compressed air, liquid air, liquid nitrogen, etc.)


Matt Moran is a Managing Partner at Isotherm Energy and has been developing power, thermal, and fluid systems since 1982.  He has a passion for the business and engineering of technology development and its integration into commercial products. Matt was the Sector Manager for Energy and Materials at NASA Glenn Research Center where he worked for over 30 years.  He has also co-founded or been a key contributor to five technology based start-ups; and provided R&D and engineering consulting to many industrial, government and research organizations.  More about Matt here