Large space structures are capable of large thermal deformations in the space environment. A case of large-scale thermal deformation was observed in the analysis of the Near Earth Asteroid Scout solar sail, with predicted tip displacements of more than one meter in seven-meter booms. Experimental data supports the broad conclusions of the analysis, but shows poor agreement on the details of the thermal deformation. Prediction that is precise enough to drive engineering decisions will require coupled thermal-stress analysis with features that are not found in current multiphysics codes.

With the release of Thermal Desktop 6.0, users now had the ability to interface with some of the many elements and constructs of a Thermal Desktop model through external applications developed using the TD API (Application Programming Interface). This file allows applications to be developed in the .NET framework and interface to a number of object types within a Thermal Desktop model. The release of 6.1 expands the subset of objects able to be manipulated and now includes the raw geometrical information of surfaces. With the release of 6.1, the API was now referred to as OpenTD.

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.