Session

Technical Session VII: Propulsion

SSC13-VII-3.pdf (2524 kB)
Presentation Slides

Abstract

The success of nanospacecraft (1–10 kg) and the evolution of the millimeter-scale wireless sensor network concept have cultivated interest in small, sub-kilogram scale, “smartphone”-sized ultra-small satellites, either as stand-alone spacecraft or as elements in a maneuverable fleet. Many of these are envisioned to have a flat geometry and can have a high area-to-mass ratio, which results in a short orbital lifetime in low Earth orbit due to atmospheric drag. Here, we update previous trade studies in which we investigated the use of a very short (few meters), semi-rigid electrodynamic tether for ultra-small satellite propulsion. The results reveal that an insulated tether, only a few meters long and tens of micrometers in diameter, can provide 10-g to 1-kg satellites with complete drag cancellation and the ability to change orbit. Further, a few meter tether could serve as a communications antenna. We also provide a description of the Miniature Tether Electrodynamics Experiment (MiTEE) being planned. The goal of MiTEE will be to demonstrate and study miniature electrodynamic tether capabilities in space.

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Aug 14th, 8:15 AM

Investigating the Feasibility and Mission Enabling Potential of Miniaturized Electrodynamic Tethers for Femtosatellites and Other Ultra-small Satellites

The success of nanospacecraft (1–10 kg) and the evolution of the millimeter-scale wireless sensor network concept have cultivated interest in small, sub-kilogram scale, “smartphone”-sized ultra-small satellites, either as stand-alone spacecraft or as elements in a maneuverable fleet. Many of these are envisioned to have a flat geometry and can have a high area-to-mass ratio, which results in a short orbital lifetime in low Earth orbit due to atmospheric drag. Here, we update previous trade studies in which we investigated the use of a very short (few meters), semi-rigid electrodynamic tether for ultra-small satellite propulsion. The results reveal that an insulated tether, only a few meters long and tens of micrometers in diameter, can provide 10-g to 1-kg satellites with complete drag cancellation and the ability to change orbit. Further, a few meter tether could serve as a communications antenna. We also provide a description of the Miniature Tether Electrodynamics Experiment (MiTEE) being planned. The goal of MiTEE will be to demonstrate and study miniature electrodynamic tether capabilities in space.