Abstract

The Electric sail concept is based on a distributed tether satellite system with tether lengths on the order of thousands-of meters. The system must deploy from stowed arrangement into a selected flight configuration in which thrust forces are transmitted through the tether to the satellite body. The system must be stable through deployment procedure and maintain stable, desired configuration during flight operations. Understanding the dynamic behavior of the satellite bodies and distributed, conductive tether are critical to long-range design and development of the Electric Sail concept. This paper’s contribution is the presentation, development and validation of a mathematical model for simulating E-Sail deployment of a prototype system for testing on the MSFC Robotic Flat Floor Facility. A massed tether model is developed using the bead and string concept with equations of motion derived from Lagrange’s Method. The model is validated using infrared motion capture data produced by controlled experiments of a representative tether portion outfitted with IR targets. Further, a prototype is presented which will be used to investigate an E-Sail deployment approach and associated control. The design of this system will allow for deployment on specially designed flat floor facilities at MSFC. The prototype will be used to: 1) gather data for validation of system dynamic model, 2) evaluate alternative deployment strategies, 3) evaluate tether reel-out and damping control strategies.

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