I've been reading about High Altitude Balloons (HAB) lately, and it seems that they take much greater pains to fight cold temperatures than cubesats do. Loads of insulation, especially on batteries, and stories of failures because the batteries got too cold.

While thermal management for cubesats is certainly important, it seems that there's much less insulation and less concern about batteries, while more concern about shedding heat.

Does this represent a significant difference in the environments the two operate in? Is it a factor of cubeage being cheaper on a HAB? Or am I just missing something?

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, there is a significant difference in the environments. One is a vacuum, the other isn't. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Nov 19 '17 at 17:24

A vacuum is a pretty good insulator, much better than the air at the altitudes balloons operate at.


Heat transfers in one of three ways: convection, conduction, and/or radiation.

In the vacuum of space, radiation is the primary mechanism of heat leaving a spacecraft. Radiation is slow acting and relatively easy to insulate against.

In a high altitude balloon, objects passing through the cool air outside readily transfer their heat to the surrounding environment.


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