Space electrodynamic tether propulsion technology: System considerations and future plans

Brian E. Gilchrist, Les Johnson, Sven G. Bilen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Space electrodynamic tethers offer the opportunity for in-space “propellantless” propulsion around planets with a magnetic field and ionosphere. This propulsion is accomplished by converting the magnetic force on the tether current into propulsive or drag thrust to either increase or decrease the orbital energy of the spacecraft system. To validate electrodynamic-tether thrusting, we must be able to demonstrate sustainable currents and effective methods of collecting and emitting electron current under varying ionospheric conditions. To date, significant tether current flow (~1 A) to/from the tether’s end collectors in the Earth’s ionosphere has been demonstrated as part of NASA’s TSS-1R mission in 1996, though the maximum possible current was not tested. Here, we review system-level issues associated with effective electrodynamic-tether operation, which include ionospheric and motional-EMF variability as well as details of the tether “end”, contacts under varying ionospheric conditions. We also survey potential future near-Earth applications of electrodynamic tethers as currently conceived. Applications ranging from orbit transfer of payloads, orbit maintenance, and end-of-mission deorbiting will be described. The NASA ProSEDS mission, an important first step to understanding electrodynamic-tether capabilities, is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication35th Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit
PublisherAmerican Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA
ISBN (Print)9780000000002
StatePublished - 1999
Event35th Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit, 1999 - Los Angeles, United States
Duration: Jun 20 1999Jun 24 1999

Other

Other35th Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit, 1999
CountryUnited States
CityLos Angeles
Period6/20/996/24/99

Fingerprint

Electrodynamics
Propulsion
Tetherlines
Ionosphere
NASA
Earth (planet)
Orbital transfer
Planets
Drag
Spacecraft
Orbits
Magnetic fields
Electrons
Electric potential

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering

Cite this

Gilchrist, B. E., Johnson, L., & Bilen, S. G. (1999). Space electrodynamic tether propulsion technology: System considerations and future plans. In 35th Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit [AIAA 99-2841] American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA.
Gilchrist, Brian E. ; Johnson, Les ; Bilen, Sven G. / Space electrodynamic tether propulsion technology : System considerations and future plans. 35th Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA, 1999.
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Gilchrist, BE, Johnson, L & Bilen, SG 1999, Space electrodynamic tether propulsion technology: System considerations and future plans. in 35th Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit., AIAA 99-2841, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA, 35th Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit, 1999, Los Angeles, United States, 6/20/99.

Space electrodynamic tether propulsion technology : System considerations and future plans. / Gilchrist, Brian E.; Johnson, Les; Bilen, Sven G.

35th Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA, 1999. AIAA 99-2841.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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Gilchrist BE, Johnson L, Bilen SG. Space electrodynamic tether propulsion technology: System considerations and future plans. In 35th Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit. American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA. 1999. AIAA 99-2841