Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologie dell'Informazione     
Tadini P., Tancredi U., Grassi M., Anselmo L., Pardini C., Francesconi A., Branz F., Maggi F., Lavagna M., Luigi D., Viola N., Chiesa S., Trushlyakov V., Shimada T. Active debris multi-removal mission concept based on hybrid propulsion. In: Acta Astronautica, vol. 103 pp. 26 - 35. Elsevier, 2014.
During the last 40 years, the mass of the artificial objects in orbit increased quite steadily at the rate of about 145 metric tons annually, leading to about 7000 metric tons. Most of the cross-sectional area and mass (97% in low Earth orbit) is concentrated in about 4500 intact abandoned objects plus a further 1000 operational spacecraft. Analyses have shown that the most effective mitigation strategy should focus on the disposal of objects with larger cross-sectional area and mass from densely populated orbits. Recent NASA results have shown that the worldwide adoption of mitigation measures in conjunction with active yearly removal of approximately 0.2-0.5% of the abandoned objects would stabilize the debris population. Targets would have typical masses between 500 and 1000 kg in the case of spacecraft, and of more than 1000 kg for rocket upper stages. In the case of Cosmos-3M second stages, more than one object is located nearly in the same orbital plane. This provides the opportunity of multi-removal missions, more suitable for yearly removal rate and cost reduction needs. This paper deals with the feasibility study of a mission for the active removal of large abandoned objects in low Earth orbit. In particular, a mission is studied in which the removal of two Cosmos-3M second stages, that are numerous in low Earth orbit, is considered. The removal system relies on a Chaser spacecraft which performs rendezvous maneuvers with the two targets. The first Cosmos-3M stage is captured and an autonomous de-orbiting kit, carried by the Chaser, is attached to it. The de-orbiting kit consists of a Hybrid Propulsion Module, which is ignited to perform stage disposal and controlled reentry after Chaser separation. Then, the second Cosmos-3M stage is captured and, in this case, the primary propulsion system of the Chaser is used for the disposal of the mated configuration. Critical mission aspects and related technologies are investigated at a preliminary level. In particular, an innovative electro-adhesive system for target capture, mechanical systems for the hard docking with the target and a hybrid propulsion technology suitable for rendezvous, de-orbiting and controlled reentry operations are analyzed. This is performed on the basis of a preliminary mission profile, in which suitable rendezvous and disposal strategies have been considered and investigated by numerical analysis. A preliminary system mass budget is also performed, showing that the Chaser overall mass is about 1350 kg, including a primary propulsion system of about 300 kg, and a de-orbiting kit with a mass of about 200 kg. The system designed results suitable to be launched with VEGA, actually the cheapest European space launcher.
URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0094576514002264
DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2014.06.027
Subject Active debris removal, Hybrid propulsion, Controlled reentry, Adhesive debris capture, Debris rendezvous, Abandoned rocket bodies.
70F15 Celestial mechanics

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