Cryogenic Thermal Subsystem

Unit will reject heat generated by the detectors of the Nancy Grace Roman Telescope’s sensitive Coronagraph Instrument.

Space Dynamics Laboratory, Utah State University
North Logan, UT

Utah State University’s Space Dynamics Laboratory announced recently that it has delivered a critical subsystem to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for integration onto the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. The Cryogenic Thermal Subsystem for the Roman Coronagraph Instrument was delivered to JPL at SDL’s facilities on USU’s Innovation Campus.

SDL designed, built, tested, and delivered the Cryogenic Thermal Subsystem, which includes two space-qualified radiators, two thermal straps, and support structures that will reject heat generated by the detectors of Roman’s sensitive Coronagraph Instrument. One of two instruments on the Roman Space Telescope, the Roman Coronagraph Instrument will demonstrate technology to enable future missions to discover and characterize planets that could sustain life within their star’s habitable zones. Planets within a habitable zone are those within the range of a star where water could exist on the planet’s surface.

Since the 1970s, SDL has been at the forefront of developing thermal technologies for space applications. Early in its history, SDL understood the need for cryogenically cooled instruments to obtain accurate space-based measurements in the infrared and other wavelengths. Now a signature SDL capability, the thermal subsystems SDL designs and manufactures enable exceptionally sensitive instruments, which in turn provide scientists with information to better understand the universe and our place in it.

The Cryogenic Thermal Subsystem’s most critical function is to provide cooling to maintain the detectors in two of the Roman Coronagraph Instrument’s cameras at sufficiently low temperatures, approximately minus 161o F, which will allow them to function with the required sensitivity. The first-stage radiator shields the second-stage radiator from the heat radiated by the Roman Coronagraph Instrument and other parts of the spacecraft.

Matt Felt, head of SDL’s thermal technologies, explained, “Two thermal straps conduct heat from the cameras to the second-stage radiator, radiating that heat into deep space. Size and weight are premium commodities on any spacecraft, and SDL’s new Pyrolytic Graphite Sheet thermal strap technology allows the Cryogenic Thermal Subsystem’s mass to be significantly lower than previously possible with metallic straps.”

The Roman Space Telescope is slated to launch no later than May 2027. With an estimated mass of 4,059 kgs, the spacecraft will operate at the second Earth-Sun Lagrange point, where the gravities of the Earth and Sun balance each other, to answer fundamental questions about dark energy, exoplanets, and infrared astrophysics. It will measure the history of cosmic acceleration in addition to searching for worlds beyond our solar system.

For more information, contact Space Dynamics Laboratory at 435-713-3400 or visit here .