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Thermally induced dynamics of deployable solar panels of nanosatellite

Syahrim Azhan Ibrahim (Department of Civil Engineering, Kyushu Institute of Technology, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Japan and Agensi Angkasa Negara, Banting, Selangor, Malaysia)
Eiki Yamaguchi (Department of Civil Engineering, Kyushu Institute of Technology, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Japan)

Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology

ISSN: 0002-2667

Article publication date: 13 February 2019

Issue publication date: 15 August 2019



This study aims to predict the types of thermally induced dynamics (TID) that can occur on deployable solar panels of a small form factor satellite, CubeSat which flies in low Earth orbit (LEO). The TID effect on the CubeSat body is examined.


A 3U CubeSat with four short-edge deployable solar panels is considered. Time historic temperature of the solar panels throughout the orbit is obtained using a thermal analysis software. The results are used in numerical simulation to find the structural response of the solar panel. Subsequently, the effect of solar panel motion on pointing the direction of the satellite is examined using inertia relief method.


The thermal snap motion could occur during eclipse transitions due to rapid temperature changes in solar panels’ cross-sections. In the case of asymmetric solar panel configuration, noticeable displacement in the pointing direction can be observed during the eclipse transitions.

Research limitations/implications

This work only examines an LEO mission where the solar cells of the solar panels point to the Sun throughout the daylight period and point to the Earth while in shadow. Simplification is made to the CubeSat structure and some parameters in the space environment.

Practical implications

The results from this work reveal several practical applications worthy of simplifying the study of TID on satellite appendages.


This work presents a computational method that fully uses finite element software to analyze TID phenomenon that can occur in LEO on a CubeSat which has commonly used deployable solar panels structure.



Ibrahim, S.A. and Yamaguchi, E. (2019), "Thermally induced dynamics of deployable solar panels of nanosatellite", Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology, Vol. 91 No. 7, pp. 1039-1050.



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