Numerical heat transfer study of a space environmental testing facility using COMSOL Multiphysics

Abhilash Vakkada Ramachandran*, María Paz Zorzano, Javier Martín-Torres

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Environmental chambers are used to test the expected performance of space instrumentation and to investigate certain processes which are relevant in space or other planetary environments. In this study, a computational model of an existing Martian experimental facility is investigated numerically using COMSOL Multiphysics. For this purpose, we simulate the near surface water cycle under Martian temperature and pressure experimental conditions as tested inside the chamber and we compare the simulations with the experimental data. The model shows good agreement with experiments on the equilibration time scales and thermal gradients. Due to the imposibility to place sensors at multiple locations inside the chamber, we use the model to extrapolate the one-point relative humidity of the experimental data to each grid points in the simulation. This model gives an understanding of the gradient in atmospheric water relative humidity to which the experimental samples such as deliquescent salts and Martian regolith simulants are exposed at different time intervals. The of the performance of HABIT instrument during the tests, of the ESA/IKI ExoMars 2022 robotic mission to Mars, when compared with the model shows the existence of an extra internal heating source of about 1 W which can be attributed to the hydration and deliquescence of the salts exposed to Martian conditions when in contact with atmospheric moisture. In addition, the presented model is used to predict the thermal gradients and understand the time response when the chamber is heated in vacuum conditions. Our analysis shows that for thermal vacuum tests, the chamber will take about 2.5 h to reach the test temperature of 420 K.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101205
JournalThermal Science and Engineering Progress
Early online date15 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge COMSOL® advisors for their support and Dr. Miracle Israel Nazarious for his valuable inputs on the HABIT data. MPZ acknowledges the partial support of the Agencia Estatal de Investigación Project No. de Excelencia “María de Maeztu” – Centro de Astrobiología (CSIC-INTA), and the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (ref. PID2019-104205GB-C21). The Kempe Foundation funded the design and fabrication of the SpaceQ chamber. A.V.R. and J.M.T. acknowledge support from the Wallenberg Foundation.


  • 3D model
  • Heat transfer
  • Mars
  • Space chamber
  • Test facility
  • Vacuum


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