Heat sump

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A spacecraft may be easily detected by passive sensors because of the heat it radiates in comparison to its background environment.

Imperial Méxica Navy warships utilize the characteristics of shipskin, engine ducts to minimise the apparent energy output, and a heat sump to enhance their stealth signature.

A heat sump creates thermal inertia within the ship by absorbing heat that would otherwise be radiated, and storing it until it can be safely emitted. There is a relationship between the amount of heat that can be stored in relation to the size of the heat sump and its initial temperature; to provide maximum duration the sump must already be super-cooled to cryogenic conditions. To achieve the necessary cryogenic conditions of itself requires the expenditure of energy.

A spacecraft has no easy means of quietly disposing of heat as a vessel in an atmosphere or liquid might. The capacity of the heat sump is therefore a major factor for the time in which a warship can rely on stealth.

There is a competition between the efficiency and capability of the heat sump and the sensitivity of the passive sensors used by the enemy.


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