Spacecraft thermal control is entirely reliant upon radiative heat transfer for temperature regulation. Current methods are often static in nature and do not provide dynamic control of radiative heat transfer. As a result, modern spacecraft thermal control systems are typically 'cold-biased' with radiators that are larger than necessary for many operating conditions. Deploying a variable radiator as a thermal control technique in which the projected surface area can be adjusted to provide the appropriate heat loss for a given condition can reduce unnecessary heat rejection and reduce power requirements. However, the radiative behavior of the apparent surface representing the expanding/collapsing radiator changes in addition to the projected surface area size. This work experimentally quantifies the spectral, directional emissivity of an apparent surface comprised of a series of V-grooves (e.g. corrugated surface), as a function of angle and highlights its emission characteristics that trend toward black behavior. The experimental setup for quantifying this apparent radiative surface behavior is described and utilized to show the influence of surface geometry, direction and wavelength. The experimental design is validated and demonstrated using fully oxidized, nearly diffuse, copper, corrugated test samples. The results presented in this work demonstrate, for the corrugated oxidized copper surfaces tested, that (1) higher emissivity values correspond to higher wavelengths in the spectral range of 2.5 to 15.4 μm (2) apparent emissivity values increase with decreasing V-groove angle resulting in less spectral variation in emissivity and greater blackbody like behavior, (3) azimuth dependence can be relatively small despite the obvious pattern associated with a corrugated surface, (4) as the V-groove angle decreases, higher emissivity values are associated with θ→0° and ϕ→90°. Results provide a foundation for future radiator design, improved spacecraft thermal control methods, and improved emissivity testing methods for patterned or angular surfaces.



College and Department

Mechanical Engineering



Date Submitted


Document Type





apparent radiative property, emissivity, corrugated, v-groove



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