The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has formed a strategic collaboration with ThermAvant Technologies and Maxar Technologies for new spacecraft technology development.

The partnership is aimed at deploying advanced spacecraft thermal control technology.

Known as Oscillating Heat Pipes (OHPs), the technology provides lightweight and more efficient temperature control on smaller spacecraft.

Recently, OHP was launched in the second quarter of this year on a Maxar-built satellite.

Maxar space senior vice-president Chris Johnson said: “Maxar adopts the most innovative technologies to benefit our customers’ missions, and we are proud to support the commercial use of oscillating heat pipes developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory and ThermAvant Technologies.

“This technology allowed us to provide increased capability to our customers in satisfying their desired performance needs.”

OHPs will enable the US Space Force (USSF) to execute missions at a low cost when compared to the active thermal management subsystem.

AFRL and its industry partners consider the OHPs to be the future of spacecraft thermal control.

AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate Spacecraft Component Technology Branch thermal thrust lead Jon Allison said: “Oscillating heat pipes have flown in space before, but now OHPs are being relied upon to serve a mission purpose.

“The on-orbit operation of OHPs marks an important milestone in the technology transition.”

Allison expects this technology to drive spacecraft architecture for the next two decades.

The OHPs implementations represent the beginning of the fourth generation of spacecraft thermal control.