Thermal Regulation System of Millimetron Space Observatory

According to the requirements, the thermal control system must ensure the cooling of 10-m space telescope down to 4K and cooling of on-board instruments. That will be implemented by a combination of passive (sunshields) and active cooling (mechanical cryo coolers).

Critical points to achieve the requirements:

  • The telescope will be located around L2 point (Sun-Earth system), such orbit has the best environment for radiation cooling
  • Maximize the effectiveness of radiation cooling
  • Accommodation study to avoid warm elements
  • Minimization of heat flow from warm to cold parts
  • Cooling via set of temperature stages
  • Design will be based on space qualified mechanical cryo coolers

Implementation of this principle affects almost every aspect of the space observatory design to a greater or lesser degree, therefore thermal design drives structural design.


The observatory is equipped with large deployable sunshields to block the light and heat from the Sun, Earth, and Moon. Millimetron orbital position the Earth-Sun Lagrange point L2 keeps all three bodies on the same side of the spacecraft at all times, that maintains a constant thermal environment for the telescope. The sunshield system passively cools the telescope to the temperature level of 30-50K. Each sunshield consists of 2 layers of pretension two-sided aluminum-plated polyimide thin-films that are supported and 12 deployable spokes. The nearest to the primary mirror cryoshield will be connected to the 20K level of the mechanical coolers and cooled down to 20 K. It will have a different structure comparing to the sunshields.

Set of sunshields

millimetron, Sunshields,
millimetron, Sunshields,

Cryoshield design (active cooling system)

millimetron, Cryoshield

Radiative heat exchange and temperature levels through the sunshields and on-board active cooling system

millimetron, sunshields

A key moment for the thermal design of the Millimetron is to reduce the heat load for the stages of active cooling system operation. The dominant factor behind the heat load was the heat conduction through the basic structure. Two solutions were implemented: use the materials with low thermal conductivity and reduce the ratio of the cross-sectional area-to-length in truss elements. However, finding a solution was challenging since the main truss assembly must have sufficient stiffness and strength to support the payload module and its mass exceeding 3000 kg during the launch. Following launch, the primary mirror basic structure is required only to apply the loads associated with observatory operation: L2 orbit insertion, repointing, and station keeping. To reduce the thermal conductance of the basic structure, we have assumed that launch loads associated with the telescope and instruments will be applied via some detachable interface between cryogenic and warm parts of the basic structure.

Structural design of basic structure and the space between cold and warm module

A combination between active and passive cooling should be carefully designed by taking into account an appropriate margin of cooling capacity in each temperature level, because the active mechanical cooling is very expensive and complicated. Minimization of active mechanical cooling reduces cost and risks of mission.

Preliminary heat flow map (calculated)


Budget of the heat loads on the temperature levels

Level Radiation Exchange,W Structure Conduction, W Cable networkConduction*,W Heat dissipation of instruments, W ΣQ, W
1-2K - - - 0.01 0.01
4K 0.030 0.002 0.018 0.10 0.15
20K 0.489 0.211 0.200 0.50 1.40
100K 1.480 2.940 1.580 10.00 16.00

Specification of space cryo coolers


Pulse Tube Cooler PT15K
(Air Liquide)

4K-class Joule Thomson cooler
(Sumitomo H.I.

1K-class Joule Thomson cooler
(Sumitomo H.I.

 Photo 01 02 03
 TRL  TRL5/6 (planned in 2019)  TRL8  TRL5
 Cooling power  800mW at 20K
 5W at 100K
 40mW at 4.5K (EOL)

10mW at 1.7K (EOL)
19mW at 1.77K
(with PT15K precooling)

 Input power  300 W  90 W at EOL  75 W at EOL
 Mass  21 kg  15 kg  28 kg
 Life time     -  > 3 years (5years as a goal)  >5 years

Concept of the active cooling system

millimetron, cooling system

Development status

Engineering model of the sunshields deployment system
Full scale mock-up of cryoshield

Thermal model (Scale 1:10)


The cryogenic test in the vacuum chamber