Thermal FE

Integrating Finite Element Analysis into the Spacecraft Thermal Analysis Process

Young Graduate Trainee (YGT) Project: May 2004 – April 2005


James Etchells, ESTEC/ESA

Harrie Rooijackers, ATG Europe

Thermal Analysis, ESTEC/ESA


There are many steps in the spacecraft thermal analysis process such as conductor generation, pre/post-processing and mapping of temperatures to a structural model. This report seeks to identify some of the key steps in this process and to assess where the use of FEA may be beneficial. Furthermore, in order to aid the integration of FEA into the thermal analysis process, several tools have been developed and these will be presented within the report. The key objectives of the investigation are:

Research Objectives

  • To consider the different steps and processes involved in spacecraft thermal analysis
  • To asses which steps in the process could benefit from the use of FEA
  • To investigate where it is possible to use TLP and FEA methods together and how it is possible to map between the methods
  • To elucidate these issues and provide quantitative data by running some test cases
Objectives for the Development of Tools
  • Focus on development of general methodologies rather than creating a single specific tool
  • Development should be as tool independent as possible and use neutral formats if feasible
  • Where possible, existing, trusted, software tools should be used
  • Development should act as a first step towards integrating FEA, allowing users to experiment with minimum financial investment or time commitment

Material available for download

The following material is available for download on this website:

  • YGT Final Report: “Integrating Finite Element Analysis into the Spacecraft Thermal Analysis Process” (PDF)
  • YGT Final Presentation (PDF)
  • NASTRAN BDF to STEP-TAS conversion tool (PC Windows)
  • NASTRAN RADMTX writer tool (PC Windows)
  • FE2TAN tool (PC Windows)

It is also hoped that some tutorial examples demonstrating the use of these tools will be made available. There is, however, no guarantee that these will be made available and no specific time frame. Readers are advised to check this page periodically in order to check for updates.

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