Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics


Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

Alina A Alexeenko

Committee Member 1

Timothée L Pourpoint

Committee Member 2

Steven H Collicott


This thesis details the heat and mass transfer analysis of a MEMs microthruster designed to provide propulsive, attitude control and thermal control capabilities to a cubesat. This thruster is designed to function by retaining water as a propellant and applying resistive heating in order to increase the temperature of the liquid-vapor interface to either increase evaporation or induce boiling to regulate mass flow. The resulting vapor is then expanded out of a diverging nozzle to produce thrust. Because of the low operating pressure and small length scale of this thruster, unique forms of mass transfer analysis such as non-continuum gas flow were modeled using the Direct Simulation Monte Carlo method. Continuum fluid/thermal simulations using COMSOL Multiphysics have been applied to model heat and mass transfer in the solid and liquid portions of the thruster. The two methods were coupled through variables at the liquid-vapor interface and solved iteratively by the bisection method. The simulations presented in this thesis confirm the thermal valving concept. It is shown that when power is applied to the thruster there is a nearly linear increase in mass flow and thrust. Thus, mass flow can be regulated by regulating the applied power. This concept can also be used as a thermal control device for spacecraft.