Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologie dell'Informazione     
Pardini C., Hanada T., Krisko P. H. Benefits and risks of using electrodynamic tethers to de-orbit spacecraft. In: International Astronautical Congress (Valencia, Spain, October 2-6, 2006). Proceedings, pp. xxx - xxx. Final Papers Published on the DVD of the 57th IAC 2006, 2006.
By using electrodynamic drag to greatly increase the orbital decay rate, an electrodynamic space tether can remove spent or dysfunctional spacecraft from low Earth orbit rapidly and safely. Moreover, the low mass requirements of such tether devices make them highly advantageous compared to conventional rocket-based de-orbit systems. However, tethers are usually very long and thin, providing increased opportunities for something to go wrong. In particular, a tether system is much more vulnerable to space debris impacts than a typical spacecraft and its design must prove to be safe to a certain confidence level before being adopted for potential applications. To assess the space debris related concerns, a new task (Action Item 19.1) on the 'Potential Benefits and Risks of Using Electrodynamic Tethers for End-of-life De-orbit of LEO Spacecraft' was defined by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), in March 2001. Two tests were proposed to compute the fatal impact rate of meteoroids and orbital debris on space tethers in circular orbits, at different altitudes and inclinations, as a function of the tether diameter, and to assess the survival probability of an electrodynamic tether system during typical de-orbiting missions. IADC members of three agencies, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), participated in the study and different computational approaches were specifically developed in the framework of this IADC task. This paper summarizes the content of the IADC AI 19.1 Final Report. In particular, it introduces the potential benefits and risks of using tethers in space, it describes the assumptions made in the study plan, it compares and discusses the results obtained by ASI, JAXA and NASA for the two tests proposed. Some general conclusions and recommendations are eventually highlighted as a result of a massive and intensive study.
Subject Space Debris Mitigation
De-orbiting Spacecraft with Electrodynamic
Tether Vulnerability to Space Debris Impacts
J.2 Physical Sciences and Engineering

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