West Coast Solutions (WCS) and teammate Creare are developing the Compact Cryocooler Electronics (CCCE) to meet NASA’s need for highly miniaturized, radiation hard electronics to pair with small cryocoolers for space missions. Based on the Phase I results, the CCCE is projected to achieve a package size of 4 in3 for a power level of 25W, representing a stunning 75% volume reduction versus competing technology.
Small (~ 300 g) cryocoolers are already available with more in development which are capable of supporting infrared sensing on very small satellites, all the way down to 2U (10 x 10 x 20 cm). CCCE makes relevant to the small sat industry the recent tactical cryocooler developments focused on hot midwave infrared (HMWIR), nominally 120K to 150K operation.
West Coast Solutions, teamed with Creare, is applying decades of industry-leading experience and success in novel cryocooler electronics solutions to the development of the industry’s first radiation hard CCE targeting this new class of low voltage, low power cryocoolers. For missions requiring a high performance, long-life space cryocooler, the CCCE is paired with the LM Space Micro Pulse Tube. Longer term, the proposed effort is strongly leveraged by ongoing Missile Defense Agency-funded small satellite cryocooler development efforts to improve even further upon the current state of the art in miniature coolers, extending the applicability of this proposed research to long wave infrared (LWIR).
During Phase I the brassboard electronics was successfully tested with five different small cryocoolers, including the Micro PT. Progress in Phase I has the CCCE Team on track to complete the development through TRL 6 Qualification Testing in Phase II, which could lead to flight opportunities as soon as late 2022.
Any spaceborne infrared sensor requiring use of a small cryocooler, such as for Earth imaging, planetary exploration, space-to-space viewing, Artemis program, etc.
This technology is of great interest to the Department of Defense as it pursues its Resiliency through Disaggregation approach by which one or few large satellites are replaced with a large constellation of small satellites.