Despite recent advances in computer aided design (CAD) based tools, spacecraft thermal analysis remains outside the realm of finite element method (FEM) based analysis. The primary complaints against FEM often cited are:
Structural and thermal engineers currently work independently of each other using unrelated tools, models, and methods. Without the ability to rapidly exchange design data and predicted performance, the achievement of the ideals of concurrent engineering is not possible.
Thermal engineering has long been left out of the concurrent engineering environment dominated by CAD (computer aided design) and FEM (finite element method) software. Current tools attempt to force the thermal design process into an environment primarily created to support structural analysis, which results in inappropriate thermal models. As a result, many thermal engineers either build models “by hand” or use geometric user interfaces that are separate from and have little useful connection, if any, to CAD and FEM systems.