Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Astronautical Engineering


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Ryan O'Hara, PhD.


The purpose of this research was to examine the feasibility of using Carbon Nanotube (CNT) sheets as thin film heaters for space applications. The ability to maintain the temperature of space components has a direct impact on a space vehicle's operation and longevity. Currently etched foil heaters are used to heat satellite batteries. Battery heaters are the focus of this research. However, as this study will show, they have limitations and are susceptible to failure. CNT sheets have many beneficial properties and show potential in replacing the etched foil design. In this study test specimens were created by forming laminate test articles comprised of CNT sheets and an adhesive Kapton® substrate material. These test articles were subjected to a series of tests both in atmosphere and in vacuum. Comparative tests were done on etched foil heaters and specimens made from a new polyimide material from Dupont™. As a secondary study, the effects of CNT grain orientation on heat generation capability was included. It was found that while the CNT articles were not as power efficient as the etched foil design, in the configurations tested, they offered a much higher maximum temperature, a faster response time (how fast the specimens heated up), and mitigated the potential for total heater failure. With respect to the grain orientation study, it was found that using commercial off the shelf (COTS) CNT sheets resulted in no significant change in thermal properties for specimens of the size used in these tests. In conclusion, CNT thin film heaters proved to be a viable alternative to current battery heater technology.

AFIT Designator


DTIC Accession Number