Design and Flight Qualification of a Paraffin-Actuated Heat Switch for Mars Surface Applications
The Mars Exploration Rover (MER) flight system uses mechanical, paraffin-actuated heat switches as part of its secondary battery thermal control system. This paper describes the design, flight qualification, and performance of the heat switch. Although based on previous designs by Starsys Research Corporation1,2, the MER mission requirements have necessitated new design features and an extensive qualification program. The design utilizes the work created by the expansion of a paraffin wax by bringing into contact two aluminum surfaces, thereby forming a heat conduction path. As the paraffin freezes and contracts, compression springs separate the surfaces to remove the conduction path. The flight qualification program involved extensive thermal performance, structural, and life testing.