In the present research an innovative space thermal management system is developed utilizing an integral planar variable conductance heat pipe (VCPHP) radiator, which can function reliably over a wide range of environmental conditions. The condenser (or radiator) of this planar shaped heat pipe is self-adjustable, and the evaporator temperature can be stabilized within a tolerable range even when the sink temperature changes significantly. This research includes the design, fabrication and test of four prototype planar heat pipe radiators, which are made with a metallic material and a thermally conductive polymer. The corresponding thermal performance of prototype VCPHPs were measured and analyzed through a benchtop heat pipe-based heat rejection system. To further support the concept, a multi-scale, steady-state heat pipe operation model (SSHPOM), which is able to capture both the thermal and hydrodynamic characteristics of the developed VCPHP radiator was developed. The mathematical model combines a theoretical thin-film evaporation model, a NCG expansion model and 2D steady-state heat transfer analysis. After validation, a feasibility of a large scale VCPHP designed for the Altair Lunar lander mission is predicted via numerical simulations with radiation cooling boundary conditions. Using the mathematical model, the influence of several design parameters can be identified and a maximum heat rejection turn-down ratio of 11.0 is achievable. Furthermore, the vapor-NCG topology within the integral planar heat pipe with a non-uniform heat load is simulated through a volume of fluid (VOF)-based approach.