Mechanisms for Tether-Powered Space Vehicles

Period of Performance: 05/18/2000 - 08/18/2002

$749K

Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Star Technology and Research, Inc.
3213 Carmel Bay DriveSuite 200
Mount Pleasant, SC 29466
Principal Investigator

Research Topics

Abstract

The Air Force needs an autonomous service vehicle to inspect, repair, upgrade, or refuel future satellites configured for on-orbit servicing. Star Technology and Research, Inc. examined the feasibility of such a vehicle powered by electrodynamic tether in Phase I of this effort, and found that the tether-powered service vehicle would be 2-4 times as efficient as ion rockets for high-inclination orbit changes. The vehicle, using a meteor-safe electrodynamic tether powered by lightweight solar panels, could service constellations of satellites in widely separated orbital planes over a period of months without fuel. In this Phase II effort, prototype flight hardware will be developed and delivered that will be suitable for a proof-of-concept space experiment. A control system to modulate the electrical current in the tether to control tether librations will be developed. These deliverables form the core requirements for a commercial product.