Airbus Defence and Space


Heat pipes

Heat pipes typically provide heat transport from spacecraft electronics or instruments to its radiators. Heat pipes can also be embedded into radiator panels for heat distribution to achieve high efficient heat rejection. A heat pipe is a closed chamber having an internal capillary structure which is filled with a working fluid. Heat input causes the working fluid to evaporate and carrying the heat towards the colder heat output section where it rejects the heat by condensing. The condensate returns to the heat input section by capillary forces to complete the cycle. Due to its high reliability and low complexity heat pipes have become a standard device for thermal control on spacecraft and instruments.Alternative technical solutions would be capillary pumped loops, e.g. loopheat pipes.

Features / technical details

Heat Pipe Type Constant Conductance Heat Pipe (CCHP)

Structure Material Axial grooved extrusions made of Aluminium alloy
  • Dimensions: 4 mm to 17.5 mm outer diameter, up to 5 m length

  • Working Fluid o Ammonia for typical space applications
    • Fluorocarbons for manned missions
    • Hydrocarbons for low temperature applications
  • Operating Temperature o
    • 50°C to +70°C (ammonia)
    • 100 K to 250 K (low temperature)
  • Performance up to 400 Wm at 20°C, dependent on profile type

  • Endurance/Lifetime
    • Life test programme running since 1978 under ESA/ESTEC contract.
    • More than 20 years endurance test performed


Various heat pipe extrusion profiles are available off-the-shelf, which will be used for manufacturing flight model heat pipes. In addition, dedicated heat pipes can be designed and manufactured according to customer specifications.

Reference customers

ERS-1/2, Telecom-2, RADARSAT, ENVISAT, BDPU, AMOS, etc.