Challenge 7:

Shielding Satellites





Content Objective

I can explain how s
pacecraft are designed to withstand extremely high and low t

in space.

Language Objective

I can use sentence stems to verbally share ideas with my group.

Key Question

How can we insulate a satellite to protect it from extreme temperatures in low-Earth orbit?


Objects in space, like satellites, are exposed to extreme temperatures. When satellites in orbit

near Earth are exposed to sunlight, the surface temperature of the satellite can reach over 150°C

(300°F). When the satellite passes behind the Earth, out of the path of sunlight, the surface

temperature can drop to -130°C (-200°F). Insulation and thermal control systems are important

features of a satellite because the systems located inside the satellite can stop working if the

internal temperature of the satellite gets too high or too low.

Design Challenge

A mobile communications company is planning to launch a series of satellites to create a global

communication network. Your team of scientists and aerospace engineers is competing with other

teams to design the spacecraft bus—the structural part of the satellite. The spacecraft bus must

insulate the satellite so that it is able to maintain a stable internal temperature range when exposed

to the extreme temperatures of space. The company has asked each design team to build a prototype

small satellite (SmallSat) as a proof of concept.


eacher Notes

A satellite is any object that orbits a planet or star. It is a misconception to only think of satellites

as man-made objects that were launched into orbit around the Earth. The Moon is a natural

satellite that orbits Earth. Some artificial (man-made) satellites are large, but small satellites

are increasingly common because they are very cost effective. Through research, students may

learn that SmallSats are classified by size and mass.

During this challenge, students will apply their knowledge of thermal energy transfer to

design the spacecraft bus (structural part of the satellite) that will insulate a small satellite

so that it can maintain a relatively stable internal temperature in hot and cold environments.

Through research, students may learn that a special material called multilayer insulation (MLI)

is frequently used on the outside of satellites to reflect much of the Sun’s thermal radiation.

Satellites are made with insulating materials and have a thermal control system that helps to

maintain the internal temperature. While students do not have access to MLI or an electronic

thermal control system, they should have access to common household materials that can be

used to reflect light and heat as well as materials that can be used as insulation. Students were

introduced to thermal conductors and insulators in grade 4 (TEKS 4(6)(B)).

continued next page

460-2058 SDCS G6-8.indb 135460-2058 SDCS G6-8.indb 1357/9/2021 4:49:45 PM7/9/2021 4:49:45 PM
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