This paper describes a new approach to spacecraft thermal control based on a passive thin-film smart radiator device (SRD) that employs a variable heat-transfer/emitter structure. The SRD employs an integrated thin-film structure based on V1-x-yMxNyOn that can be applied to existing Al thermal radiators. The SRD operates passively in response to changes in the temperature of the space structure. The V1-x-yMxNyOn exhibits a metal/insulator transition with temperature, varying from an IR transmissive insulating state at lower temperatures, to a semiconducting state at higher temperatures. Dopants, M and N, are employed to tailor the thermo-optic characteristics and the transition temperature of the passive SRD. The transition temperature can be preset over a wide range from below -30°C to above 68°C using suitable dopants. A proprietary SRD structure has been developed that facilitates emissivities below 0.2 to dark space at lower temperatures to reduce heater requirements. As the spacecraft temperature increases above the selected transition temperature, the thermal emissivity of the SRD to dark space increases by a factor of 2.5 to 3. The thin-film SRD methodology has significant advantages over competitive technologies in terms of weight, cost, power requirements, mechanical simplicity and reliability Preliminary results on an active electrochromic SRD based on the VO2 system are also presented.
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