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www.elsevier.com/locate/paerosci

M.P. Cartmell, D.J. McKenzie

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Glasgow, James Watt Building, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK

Available online 7 November 2007

Abstract

The review paper attempts to provide a useful contextualised source of references for the student interested in learning about space tethers,

and their potential for propulsion of payloads in Space. The two principal categories of momentum exchange and electrodynamic tethers are

discussed, with the principal aim of establishing useful sources of fundamental theory in the literature, as well as highlighting important

technology and mission development papers. The large-scale international effort that continues to be made in the area of space tether research

is evident, with major literature contributions from the world-wide scientic and technical community. The overarching theme of the paper is

to show the richness and diversity of tether modelling that has been undertaken in recent times, and to emphasise, by means of many different

examples, that dynamics and control are the two fundamentally important aspects of all tether concepts, designs, and mission architectures.

r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Contents

1.

2.

3.

4.

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Momentum exchange tethers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

2.1. Summary of operating principles and relevant orbital mechanics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

2.2. Tether missions, constraints, and failure modes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

2.3. Dynamics of dumb-bell systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

2.4. Tether models in which exural effects are introduced . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

2.5. Control strategies and models . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

2.6. Practical tether designs and proposed system technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

2.7. Deployment scenarios and mission plans. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Electrodynamic tethers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

3.1. Summary of operating principles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

3.1.1. The TSS-1R mission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

3.2. Practical electrodynamic tether designs and proposed system technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

1. Introduction

The eld of space tethers has received very considerable

attention in recent decades, with many specialist articles

Corresponding author. Tel.: +44 141 330 4337; fax: +44 141 330 4343.

0376-0421/$ - see front matter r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

doi:10.1016/j.paerosci.2007.08.002

these are reviewed in this paper, and the discussion also

covers some of the texts and handbooks available. We start

with the excellent foundation textbook by Beletsky and

Levin [1] in which the dynamics of tethers are introduced

rigorously, in a progressive and pragmatic manner. The

book starts by setting the scene for tethers in space by

ARTICLE IN PRESS

2

fact and ction in such a way that the reader new to tethers

is soon clear about the important fundamental parameters

such as material density, strength, and orbital location, and

how these can trade off. The book then moves on to

develop equations of motion for a exible tether with end

masses and massless and massive variations, along with

perturbational and certain environmental effects. The

tether is then investigated within the Newtonian eld and

the dynamics examined in terms of stability and oscillatory

behaviour. Atmospheric probes, electrodynamic (ED)

tethers, libration and rotation, deployment and retrieval,

and lunar anchored and satellite ring systems serve to

complete the coverage of the book. A very useful set of

references is also provided, up to the publication year of

1993. A chapter on the orbital mechanics of propellantless

propulsion systems, by McInnes and Cartmell is given in

the more general astrodynamics text [1], and this covers

both solar sails and tethers, as technologies with the

potential to overcome the constraints of propulsion based

on reaction, and in the tether application this is by

momentum balance through the system. The chapter

reviews some of the more well-known missions that have

own to date and then moves on to summarise the

performance expectations of hanging, librating, and spinning tethers, setting them in the context of results extant in

the literature. Gravity gradient stabilisation is re-examined,

and the well-known literature result for sub-span tension

for a short hanging tether on a circular orbit is obtained

and re-cast into the notation of [1]. The motorised tether

concept is introduced next, and the equation of motion for

a simple motorised dumb-bell on a circular orbit is derived,

leading into the more general non-planar case. Payload

transfer concepts, including the use of staged tethers (crossreference with [24]) are discussed and further useful

references are cited. There have been several general short

article expositions of tether technology during the last few

decades appearing in widely different areas of the

literature, starting with a particularly accessible and

notable example from Bekey [5]. In this summary discussion Bekey gives some of the history of the subject, with

good reference to missions up to 1983 and those planned

for a few years after. Principles of momentum exchange

and electrodynamics are outlined and useful data is

provided. This paper also discusses speculative applications

for cryogenic propellant storage and transfer, two-dimensional tethered constellations, the construction of a passive

space facility in which platforms are separated by tethers

giving a possible work volume within, payload orbit raising

and lowering, and a two-tether elevator for transfer from

LEO to GEO. In a similar vein Carrolls paper of 1985 [6]

also sets out the history of space tethers with a useful,

applications orientated, introduction to the theory in which

the important Lunavator concept of Moravec [7] appears,

with this further explained and applied by Forward [8], and

applied again by Cartmell and Ziegler [9], noting also the

more recent summaries given in [10,11]. It is also interesting

sail structures, and also applied as links between highaltitude sails and lower-altitude payloads. Further work on

complex tethered systems has led to the notion of the space

web, where multiple tethers are set up to comprise an

intricate web-like structure, McKenzie and Cartmell [12]

and McKenzie [13]. Carrolls paper [6] also highlights

aerodynamic applications where a tethered balloon could

exploit atmospheric braking to lower a higher-altitude

space plane, and altitude juggling whereby a sortie vehicle

is raised and lowered by means of a local closed orbit

controlled by a variable length-spinning tether. Carroll [6]

also introduces intriguing concepts of momentum transfer

with celestial bodies, which are examined a little further

later on. The major contribution to space tether research

made by Robert L. Forward cannot be overestimated, and

a short and digestible article by Forward and Hoyt in

Scientific American in 1999 [14] rst showed the ingenious

concept behind the use of multiple, staged tethers to

increase velocity without the necessity of extreme design,

for EarthMoon payload transfer; note also the later

contributions of [4,10,15]. US mission plans for tethers

were reviewed in 1999 and summarised in a short paper by

Johnson et al. [16], in which the use of ED tethers for

reusable upper stages was to be demonstrated during the

ProSEDS mission. This had been planned as a conductive

tether, for electromagnetic orbital adjustment, approximately 15 km in length with 10 km of it insulated and the

remaining 5 km as bare conductor. The mission was

scheduled to be own along with a launch of a Global

Positioning System satellite in spring 2003, but was

ultimately cancelled, initially because of concerns about

potential collision with the ISS. An interesting comparative

study of in-space propulsion performance for 1 year crewed

Mars mission in 2018 was reported in 2001 by Rauwolf et

al. [17]. This comprehensive study undertook to examine

contender propulsion technologies: chemical, bimodal

nuclear thermal rocket, high-power nuclear electric,

momentum tether/chemical hybrid, solar, solar/chemical,

and variable specic impulse magnetoplasma rocket

(VASIMR). This paper concluded that tether-based mission scenarios looked attractive in terms of performance

but the two concerns of technology immaturity and

operational complexity militated against a projected 2018

application. This important conclusion certainly underlines

the need for continued international effort in all aspects of

tether science and technology. Also in 2001 a major new

proposal emerged as a result of a US-based research

collaboration led by NASA Marshall Space Flight Center,

and was reported by Sorensen [18]. This paper introduced

an ingenious concept in which both momentum exchange

and ED reboost could be used for propellantless orbital

transfer. This Momentum eXchange Electrodynamic Reboost (MXER) principle relies on the tether rotating as it

travels on an elliptical orbit, catching a payload in LEO,

and then transferring this to a higher orbit after, say, one

period. The electrodynamics would be used to re-boost the

ARTICLE IN PRESS

M.P. Cartmell, D.J. McKenzie / Progress in Aerospace Sciences 44 (2008) 121

This has the potential for a high-performance orbital

transfer with essentially free re-boost, and the Final Report

[19] of 2003 shows that survivability and ight validation

issues are of primary importance, but that the necessary

science base and the basic contributory technologies are

more or less in place for mission development to continue.

In 2006, Bonometti et al. [20] conrmed that MXER

continues development within the NASA In-Space Propulsion Technology (ISPT) programme; note also Ref. [21,22].

Tethers and debris mitigation were brought to the fore in

2001 in a useful paper by van der Heide and Kruijff [23], in

which limitations of use are dened particularly for deorbiting applications in terms of susceptibility to orbital

debris. This paper also discusses the potential problem of

tethertether collisions with a suggestion that when

considering de-orbiting missions then 40 constellation deorbits per year corresponds to approximately 4 tethers in

space at the same time, which could feasibly be coordinated

in order to avoid tethertether collisions. Further work on

tether survivability has been carried out by Draper [24] in

which a range of statistical methodologies for life prediction from the literature were critically compared and a

revised proposal made, with some potential for practical

use highlighted. In addition to the environmental effects of

debris and other degrading phenomena tethers and

associated payloads are extremely vulnerable to destabilisation because of astrodynamic and other perturbational

effects. Practical application of any tether system in space

requires a high level of stability control, and the stability of

a spinning generalised satellite acted upon by the gravity

gradient and constant torques is examined by Sarychev et

al. [25]. Importantly, it is shown in this paper that stable

equilibria can exist for many general values of the inertial

parameters of the satellite. There is a large literature on

tethers, and the subset of this which deals with dynamics

and control is also substantial, with many models

proposed, together with a very large number of associated

analyses of potential dynamic performance. Dumb-bell

models tend to proliferate, for a range of different

momentum exchange congurations in which the tether

and payload system is assumed to behave predominantly as

a rigid body. Whilst this is a somewhat questionable

assumption, and certainly not the case for all phases of

deployment and operation, it maybe has some merit for

initial studies of new ideas, and many numerical results are

obtainable in the literature for such models, some of which

are cited here. A paper by Cartmell et al. [26], dealing with

applications of the multiple scales perturbation method to

weakly nonlinear dynamical systems, proposes approximate analytical solutions for relatively simple dumb-bell

models. Numerical solutions to these, and allied models,

are discussed in Section 2. The remainder of the paper is

divided into two main sections, dealing with momentum

exchange tethers and ED tethers, and then completing with

some conclusions and a list of 122 references. The

momentum exchange discussions in Section 2 offer a

mechanics, then a sub-section on tether missions, constraints, and failure modes. After that the dynamics of

dumb-bell systems, tether models in which exural effects

are introduced, control strategies and models, practical

tether designs and proposed system technologies, and

nally deployment scenarios and mission plans are all

investigated and commentaries provided on each topic. The

third section on ED tethers is split into two sub-sections,

offering a summary of operating principles and one of the

principal missions carried out to date, and then practical

tether designs and proposed system technologies.

2. Momentum exchange tethers

2.1. Summary of operating principles and relevant orbital

mechanics

Eiden and Cartmell [27] have summarised briey the

possible role of a European roadmap for non-conductive

tethers, nominally based on momentum exchange, and also

for conductive tethers in which electrodynamics, and

possibly momentum exchange, provide propulsion. In the

case of the former class small and large payload de-orbit

are seen as near term goals, with free-ying tethered

platforms and articial gravity systems in the mid-term,

followed eventually by spinning tethers providing interplanetary propulsion. Gravity gradient stabilisation is an

important underpinning phenomenon when considering

spacecraft stability, and this is particularly the case for long

momentum exchange tethers. The work by Cartmell et al.

[26] considers dumb-bell models for momentum exchange

tethers, and offshoots and developments of this work have

shown conclusively that hanging, librating, and spinning

tether motions are intimately connected to this fundamental phenomenon (refer to Section 2.7 for more on this

theme, particularly [11]). An analytical solution for planar

librations of a gravity stabilised satellite by Hablani and

Shrivastava [28] shows that a perturbational type of twoterm solution can be developed to predict the pitching

librations of an arbitrary gravity stabilised articial rigid

satellite in an eccentric orbit. This followed over a decade

of extensive international work on this type of problem and

the results in [28] show that periodic responses for librating

systems are necessarily important and form the spines of

the systems integral manifolds [29]. Gravity gradient

stabilisation of tethers is discussed in depth in [1,10] and

features explicitly and implicitly in a very large number of

publications in the eld, many of which appear here in this

review. An important paper by Kyroudis and Conway [30]

considered the propulsion advantages of using an elliptically orbiting, tethered dumb-bell system for geosynchronous satellite transfer over the conventional non-tethered

impulsive Hohmann transfer. This was done by forming

the planar equations for the system and solving them

numerically, notwithstanding that the analysis neglected

the tether mass and assumed dissimilar end masses in the

ARTICLE IN PRESS

4

at the other. In general tether propulsion performance was

found to improve by using a long tether and a highly

eccentric orbit, and this mode showed signicant improvements over a reasonably comparable Hohmann transfer.

Further work on using tether-based transfers was reported

by Lorenzini et al. [2] in their landmark paper in which

staged tethers in resonant orbits are proposed as being

more mass efcient than single tether systems, with a mass

ratio of 1:3 using current materials. Earlier work on staged

tethers is usefully summarised in [3] by Hoyt and Forward.

Lorenzini et al. [2] briey refer to tether orbit raising results

cited by Carroll [31] for radial separation as a function of

tether length, and conclude that spinning staged tethers

could provide an ideal transfer rate of ve transfers per

year. The transfer rate of a staged system is determined by

the periodic realignment of the apsidal lines of the two

stages, whereas in the case of a single tether it is dependent

on the time required for re-boosting the stage. Orbit raising

predictions for tethers are discussed further in Section 2.7

[11]. Continuing with the theme of propulsion of a small

payload tethered to a large mass in the form of a space

station or large shuttle, Pascal et al. [32] investigated the

laws of deployment and retrieval by means of a threedimensional rigid body model of a dumb-bell tether in both

circular and elliptical orbits. Several laws are proposed and

analytical solutions for small planar and non-planar

motions of the tether are given, showing that equilibrium

tension can be stated as a function of instantaneous tether

length and corresponding axial acceleration, for which

control laws can be stipulated. It is shown that deployment

is generally stable whereas retrieval is not. Various laws are

examined for deployments and retrievals, and also for

crawler congurations in which the end payload moves out

along a pre-deployed tether and how this can mitigate the

inherent instability of retrieval. The next conceptual step to

take when considering deployment is to include some form

of exibility within the tether, and an interesting study of

this was published by Danilin et al. [33] in 1999, in which

the elastic tether model of No and Cochrane Jr [34] is used

but with different variables and derivation. The objective

of this paper was to consider deployment of a completely

exible tether from a rigid rotating space vehicle under the

inuence of a central gravitational eld. The tether is

modelled as a series of discrete masses interconnected by

massless elements and with internal viscous damping. The

authors make the very important point that tether element

forces cannot be compressive, so conditions within the

numerical solution algorithm have to be set up to

accommodate the consequential folding effects. Two

numerical examples are summarised; one for a swinging

terrestrial cable with an end mass, which starts from a

horizontal initial condition, mainly as a verication of the

model in those conditions, and the other for plane motion

of a space vehicle deploying a relatively short 3 km tether,

with elemental spacing of 100 m, on orbit. The deployment

is linear and conditions are set up to apply smooth braking

also possible, and potentially very useful, to consider

tethered vehicles within an aerobraking context. In such

cases a vehicle, or probe, and an orbiter, connected

together by a tether, are congured so that the vehicle

passes through a planetary atmosphere to obtain a target

velocity change, with the orbiter passing above the atmospheric inuence. Longuski et al. [35] give a full account of

this very interesting problem. Their modelling is based on

the premise that a dumb-bell tether arrives spinning

retrograde to the orbit and when the lower payload enters

the atmosphere the aerodynamic effects decelerate the

tether until it reaches a minimum orientation angle at

which point the drag starts to spin the tether in the

opposite direction. An optimisation scheme referred to as

spin matching is used to equate the spin rates entering and

leaving the atmosphere. This has the desirable effect of

minimising the forces on the tether during the manoeuvre.

They consider the atmospheric y-through as an impact

problem and the analysis is congured to lead to

conclusions for mass optimisation, with gas giants such

as Jupiter used for the environmental context. It is shown

to work well for massive tethers interacting with the Jovian

atmosphere, and the results are particularly tractable in

that they only require knowledge of four parameters for

massive tethers (orbiter-to-probe mass ratio, non-dimensionalised clearance between minimum altitude of the

orbiter and minimum altitude of the probe, non-dimensionalised speed, and DV). In the case of smaller tethers the

DV is subsumed within a revised non-dimensionalised

speed variable, so the parameter space is reduced to three.

A major and authoritative work on the dynamic analysis of

tethers using continuum modelling has been provided by

Auzinger et al. [36], in which stiff equations of motion

obtained by Hamilton-Ostrogradskii and balance principles are solved numerically in a detailed parametric study.

This sophisticated numerical investigation offers a great

deal of useful predictive data on momentum exchange

systems.

It should be pointed out that the papers cited above also

contain valuable sources of references, some of which also

feature in this review, and the interested reader is strongly

advised to consult widely on each sub-topic, using the

references supplied within this review and also those which

are precluded from inclusion due to space reasons but

which can be found from the cited papers. In addition to

introductory issues of performance, orbital contextualisation, modelling strategy, deployment, and aerodynamic

effects, it is also important to appreciate that collision

prevention necessarily features within any serious applications for tethers and we introduce some of the literature on

this and related matters next. An interesting introduction

to calculating collision probability between a tether and a

satellite is given by Patera [37,38] of the Center for Orbital

and Reentry Debris Studies in Los Angeles, based on a

computational scheme for long slender tethers of predened shape and a spherical collision space on the basis of

ARTICLE IN PRESS

M.P. Cartmell, D.J. McKenzie / Progress in Aerospace Sciences 44 (2008) 121

problem is shown to reduce to a two-dimensional symmetric

probability density over a cross-sectional collision region.

This in turn reduces to a one-dimensional path integral that

gives computational efciency. A reasonable tether length of

20 km was assumed, with negligible radius and the highly

signicant conclusion was that tethersatellite collision

probabilities are up to 600 times greater than those for

satellitesatellite collisions. Useful comparison data is given

to support this conclusion in tabular and graphical form for

different, and practically feasible, tether congurations. In

addition to tethersatellite collisions we also have to consider

the susceptibility of tethers to debris impacts. A novel Tether

Risk Assessment Programme (TRAP model) due to Gittins et

al. [39] has been proposed and comprises three main

functions; the breakup function, the tether function, and

the analysis function. This work was motivated by the widely

held belief that on impact a debris fragment with a diameter a

little smaller than half of a tether strand diameter can cause

that strand to fail. The break-up component models collisions

and explosions to determine fragment number, mass,

diameter and DV [40]. The tether function is in fact a model

of tether dynamics and this is a two stage affair, dealing with

system centre of mass motion and also libration of the end

masses and tether mass beads. The analysis function

determines collision and severance risk based on probabilistic

continuum dynamics in which an orbital trajectory is found

between two position vectors when the time of ight is

known; this is the well-known Gauss-Lambert problem. The

paper considers a single strand tether and, interestingly, a

double stranded tether design, where the failure criterion is if

both strands in one segment fail or if one mass bead is hit

directly. General conclusions were that a two-strand tether

has a severance risk of two orders of magnitude lower than

the single strand case, with obvious implications for multistrand designs, noting that this premise is also discussed in

some detail in [24]. The design of tethers for survivability is revisited in Section 2.5 (see [41]) at which point the patented

HoytetherTM is summarised. This multi-line concept has a

multi-decade lifetime prediction.

From the perspective gained up to this point it is now

relevant to introduce orbital injection and basic mission

requirements. For the purposes of introduction we consider

hyperbolic injections [21], periodic solutions and the

control of tethers in elliptical orbits [42], and the all

important problem of catching a spacecraft or payload

with a spinning tether [43]. Sorensen [21] provides a highly

readable account of the issues surrounding the orbital

dynamics of the ingenious MXER tether design (also see

[19,22]). A long, 100 km or so, high-strength conductive

tether uses momentum exchange to catch a payload and

then release it into a higher-energy orbit, and then

electrodynamics are employed to reboost the tether;

effectively to restore energy and momentum given to the

payload. Note that ED tethers are considered in more

detail in Section 3.1. Sorensen conrms that interplanetary

ights require orbits to be congured for hyperbolic Earth

in this because there are a number of hyperbolae whose

outgoing asymptotes are identical. The objective is to

secure a hyperbolic injection that has an equatorial

periapsis, and a methodology is given in [21] to obtain

the necessary orbital elements. Appreciation of the whole

dynamic context is important for tether mission development and Takeichi et al. [42] provide a control scenario for

a rigid body dumb-bell tether in an elliptical orbit. The

equations of motion are solved for libration and it is shown

that the total energy of the system is minimised when the

librational and orbital motions coincide with periodic

solutions. The overall conclusion is that the periodic

solution is of minimum energy and that this minimum is

the case for circular or eccentric orbits as long as the

libration is actually possible. This can be assured through a

simple periodic on-off control strategy at a certain true

anomaly. The usefulness, or otherwise, of tether libration is

revisited by Ziegler and Cartmell [11] but clearly it has the

potential for distinct advantage over the hanging conguration for payload increment gain. It is equally obvious

that spinning tethers have greater potential still [11]. On the

assumption that we can design long-lasting tethers,

congure them into suitable orbits, control their dynamics

for optimal payload propulsion and minimal potential for

collision, the next step is to introduce criteria for efcient

rendezvous with spacecraft and payloads. Lorenzini [43]

provides an in-depth treatment of a spinning tether loop

with an extended time opportunity for error-tolerant

payload capture within high DV propulsion to GTO and

Earth escape. The conguration is such that the ends of the

loop are furthest away from the centre of mass, where the

loop is at its narrowest. The concept is simple in principle,

depending on the ejection of a payload (satellite) located

harpoon that hooks onto the loop. This makes it tolerant

of large longitudinal position errors and reasonable lateral

errors as well as some out-of-plane error. The capture is

soft, and so caters for some velocity mismatch. Stabilisation of post capture oscillations would be required prior to

further release into a higher-energy orbit. The author

rightly points out that other analyses would be required to

address loop deployment, fault tolerance, and mitigation of

entanglement. A useful survey of the dynamics and control

of tethers is given by Misra and Modi [44]. Cartmell and

DArrigo [45] modelled a symmetrical motorised momentum exchange tether with manipulation of the payload endmasses in order to generate inertial parametric excitation of

the system, in order to determine if the forced-parametric

bifurcatory states could be used to guarantee monotonic

spin-up, with preliminary results indicating that this is

indeed possible. The interested reader will nd useful crossreferences available from [4,5,46].

2.2. Tether missions, constraints, and failure modes

One of the fundamentally important issues surrounding

successful tether ight is that of the avoidance of

ARTICLE IN PRESS

6

vulnerable structures. This was investigated by Chobotov

and Mains [47] for the TSS-1R mission, which was own in

conjunction with the space shuttle orbiter STS-75 in

February 1996. The paper gives a summary of the history

of the TSS missions in 1992 and 1996 and concludes that

the TSS-1R mission deployed to 19.7 km instead of the

planned 20 km with a failure of this ED test tether due to a

foreign object penetrating the insulation layer which then

exacerbated failure due to arcing and burning of the tether

at a nominal tensile load of 65 N. The paper by Chobotov

and Mains [47] offers an interesting study into the

probability of TSS collisions with micrometeoroids and

other orbiting objects. The authors state that the expectation was that the extended tether would be expected to be

impacted by multiple particles 0.1 mm or larger in size and

that the probability of collision with objects 10 cm or

larger in size was small (10 3) before the TSS re-entered

and burned up in the atmosphere 3 weeks after deployment

from the shuttle. The NASA EVOLVE model for manmade debris ux was used as the basis for this work, at a

350 km altitude. In addition to this data for the closest

distance to satellites in this location was also used, this

being based around the US Space Command SGP4

propagator, and a simulation for a six month period

starting 1 March 1996 generated over 58 000 objects and 24

satellites. The results from the analytical model were

compared to those from a statistical Weibull probability

density function approach, with good mutual correlation.

In the case of the TSS study it was concluded that the

tether was subjected to several impacts by small particles

greater than 0.1 mm in size and that the probability of

collision with larger orbiting objects was very small, and of

the order of 0.001 per month. This paper provides a useful

set of methodologies for general application to tethers. The

subject of tether failure, particularly at deployment, was

further reviewed, by Gates et al. [48], and in the context of

the Advanced Tether Experiment (ATEx), launched in

October 1998, which is particularly interesting because the

tether used had a at tape-like cross-section. The deployment failed after only 22 m out of the possible 6.5 km

length, and the mission was aborted. The tether was made

from low-density polyethylene with three SpectraTM

reinforcing strands running lengthwise along the tether

and showed a tendency to stick to itself and for this selfadhesion to increase with stowage time. It also exhibited a

mechanical memory effect. The mission was aborted

because the deployment problems led to an excessive

libration of the deploying tether outside the acceptable

location boundaries. The paper by Gates et al. [48]

succinctly describes the build-up to this automatic system

decision and also goes into useful practical detail regarding

the deployer and the deployment methodology. The

intended deployment rate was quite low at 0.02 m/s over

3.5 days, with built in accommodation of gravity

gradient-induced librations. The expectation was that as

the deployment progressed the libration angle would

effects during the deployment and partly because of openloop spacecraft manoeuvres. A key sensor, measuring

tether position in a plane at the top of the lower tethered

body, and relative to the axis through this, showed

slackness, and this led to an automated signal to jettison.

The actual cause of the excessive slackness was not

detectable due to limited telemetry. Interestingly after

ruling out certain failure modes the authors propose that

the most likely failure mode was thermal expansion. This

seems to have been due to beginning the deployment in

eclipse, with telemetry nominal, until the tether entered the

sunlight. Another possible cause was the build up of static

which may have interfered with the telemetry and

generated a false slack signal. Shape memory and tip-off

dynamics have also been mentioned as contributory

factors, but the thermal expansion effect was deemed to

be the most likely cause, possibly in concert with these and

other subsidiary effects on top. The paper concludes that

tether deployment requirements are extremely important

when designing a system for ight, and that large design

margins are needed, but were certainly not available in this

rather tightly constrained example. Another case study

paper is that due to Leamy et al. [49] in which the authors

consider the ProSEDS mission and two different nite

element simulation models for the dynamics and a fuzzy set

technique for the ED and deployment operation, particularly with regard to parameter sensitivity. The paper starts

with a short, but useful, summary of tether ights to date

(2001) and mentions a few of the futuristic applications

that have been proposed. Unfortunately the ProSEDS

mission was cancelled in October 2003. This was partly

because of a drastically reduced starting altitude and a

launch timeframe during a period of solar minimum, which

led to the available ED propulsion performance of the

ProSEDS system becoming insufcient to meet the mission

objectives. Despite this the paper is interesting and highly

relevant as a case study. The idea of this mission had been

to study bare-wire ED tethers, and to include a thermal

model accounting for radiated heat, solar heating, and

ohmic heating in order to calculate tether element

temperatures, and an atmospheric and planetary model

accommodating aerodynamic drag, electron density at each

element position, and magnetic eld properties. The

authors used the two nite element codes to simulate the

deployment and electrodynamics of the ProSEDS mission

and variable numbers of nodes were reckoned to be

superior in this context to xed node number calculations.

The overall ndings were that the ProSEDS ED tether

operation would not have been particularly sensitive to

variation in the material parameters, but initial ejection

tether momentum and controller parameters would have

been signicant, as would variations in the geomagnetic

eld and the plasma parameters. This clearly indicates once

again the importance of controllable and adaptive deployment and braking strategies. It has been shown in this brief

review of papers dealing with possible failure and

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good understanding of the environmental conditions both

in terms of the prevailing orbital mechanics and the debris

environment, a precise knowledge of neighbouring satellite

and spacecraft operations, extremely good mechanical

design particularly for deployers and brakes, bearing in

mind that tether geometry characteristics are an integral

part of this, robust sensing of all signicant operational

variables, and highly adaptive control strategies. These

themes are revisited further in subsequent sections of the

paper.

2.3. Dynamics of dumb-bell systems

A great many tether systems can be considered as some

form of dumb-bell system in which two massive bodies, not

necessarily of the same mass or size, are coupled together

by a low-mass tether by which momentum is exchanged

between them. Kelly [50] provides a general overview of

possible applications for the conventionally expendable

Space Shuttle External Tank (ET) as a space platform in

LEO for use as an extended on-orbit crew or experimental

package base, or as a micro-g experiment and processing

facility, a celestial observation facility, an Earth observation point, or as a staging point on the way to

geosynchronous orbit locations. Conceptualisations of

these scenarios are provided but it is the apparently

secondary roles for the ET that could well involve a

dumb-bell tether conguration. Kelly suggests three

scenarios, one of which uses a tethered release of the ET

from the orbiter in which momentum exchange leads to a

boost to a higher orbit for the orbiter and consequently a

deorbiting of the ET. This idea, and several others, is also

given by Beletsky and Levin [1]. In 1992 Kumar, Kumar,

and Misra [51] presented their ndings on the effect of

deployment rate and librations on tethered payload raising.

This seminal paper showed that a counter intuitive result

was obtained whereby increasing deployment rate does not

necessarily lead to increased payload apogee. They

introduce a special rule for planar librations and circular

pre-release orbits which they denote as the 7+4d rule.

Additionally the paper shows clear general relationships

between apogee altitude gain as a function of deployment

rate and explains how suitable deployment rates could be

selected for optimising altitude gain, for a given system.

The 7+4d rule is revisited in [11]. A relatively short class

of dumb-bell tether belongs to the OEDIPUS ionospheric

plasma test mission system comprising two axially spinning

sub-payloads separated by a tether of up to 1 km in length.

This was reported by Vigneron et al. [52] in 1997.

Terrestrial tests were performed with the understanding

that they would differ from the in-space conguration in

terms of length scale, higher terrestrial level of gravity, and

the presence of friction within the system-supporting

gimbals that would not be present in space. The authors

derived a specic mathematical model of the laboratory

system, one that included the terrestrial effects as well as

for this problem can be reduced to a linear, vibratory,

damped, and gyroscopic system, for which an eigenfunction analysis is used to obtain the damped gyroscopic

modes shapes, stability, and natural frequencies for various

physical congurations. Interestingly, this work showed

that linear modelling could be used to represent modal

frequencies and payload attitude stability quite well,

however, it obviously did not cover all the possible

dynamical phenomena in the system, and would overlook

certain regions of convergent attitude motion and limit

cycle behaviour. By moving the spin axis so that it is

normal to the tether and half-way along the tether length,

orientating the tether spin plane so that it is coplanar to the

orbit plane, and then forcing the system by means of an

external drive motor, a motorised dumb-bell tether can be

envisioned. This was rst presented in 1998 by Cartmell

[53] and a preliminary model was established which showed

that forced, motor driven, spin could be generated for a

large symmetrical dumb-bell tether, and that complicated

non-planar motions of the tether could also be initiated.

Motorised tethers are examined further in later sections

[4,11,13,5456], where it is shown that there can be certain

advantages to employing an additional form of energy

input in this way, notwithstanding the potential for

complicated three-dimensional motions as this couples

with the prevailing orbital mechanics. Important aspects of

the dynamics, which underpin the general stability and

control problem that exists with long tethers in space were

examined in 2000 by Kumar and Kumar [57] in a system

comprising four equal, but short, tethers joining two

spacecraft platforms, or satellites. A stability criterion is

evolved for a somewhat simplied situation using rst

order perturbation equations around the nominal equilibrium conguration. The set of rather complicated

ordinary nonlinear differential equations is non-dimensionalised and the reduced parameter space is numerically

explored. Ultimately the authors consider three congurations; four parallel equi-spaced tethers, a parachute

arrangement where the four tethers are spaced out at the

upper end but converge to a common point on the lower

satellite, and a single tether. This intriguing paper shows

that all three congurations can provide augmentation of

gravity gradient stabilisation, with the parachute layout

performing best of all. The tether lengths are extremely

low, just a few metres, and it should be emphasised that the

objective of this particular paper is to show how very short

tethers can be used to give a high degree of threedimensional librational stability to medium-sized systems.

Clearly this is a very different remit to the needs of

interplanetary propulsion using momentum exchange

tethers, but serves to show a useful and very interesting

additional application. A discussion of an articial gravity

system, which comprises two tethered satellites was given

by Mazzoleni and Hoffman [58] in 2003 and includes tether

elasticity within the so-called Tethered Articial Gravity

(TAG) satellite. Tethers are useful for articial gravity

ARTICLE IN PRESS

8

therefore minimise the o within the o2r that denes the socalled g-force. The spin-up phase is examined in

particular, and it is found that an initial out-of-plane angle

of the system and the location of the tether attachment

point can both signicantly affect the dynamics of the endbody motion of a tethered satellite system (TSS) during

spin-up. The modelling included tether elasticity and was

based on relevant work reported by Kumar and Kumar

[57]. The net conclusion is that if tethers are to be used

successfully for articial gravity generation then attitude

control of the end bodies is required during spin-up.

Mazzoleni and Hoffman investigate the non-planar spinup dynamics of the Advanced Safety Tether Operation and

Reliability (ASTOR) satellite in [59] and show that this

spin-up manoeuvre is an example of articial gravity,

which could perhaps be harnessed within human-based

missions in the future.

Applications of tethers for interplanetary payload

propulsion are quite numerous within the literature and

some cases have been summarised above in various

contexts. Nordley [60], preceded by Forward and Nordley

in 1999 [61] (see Section 2.7), showed in 2001 that a dumbbell tether, with a counter mass at one end and a payload at

the other, could be used to throw substantial payloads to

Mars. This paper concentrates on a digestible summary of

the mission architecture strategy necessary to accomplish

this and necessarily omits some of the details. However, it

is of interest as a pragmatic assessment of the capabilities

of a momentum exchange tether on the basis of some

reasonable simplifying assumptions using currently

available materials and technologies. The general

nding from this work is that spinning tethers could be

used to propel sizeable payloads to Mars for the same or

less total mass to orbit than chemical propulsion. If one

pays attention to the way that spin is generated,

and particularly if it is externally excited by means of an

electric motor for example, then performance levels can be

optimised for a range of mission options. It was with this in

mind that Ziegler and Cartmell [11] investigated the

potential for motorised tethers in 2001. In this paper the

three mechanical options for upper payload release were

re-considered; for a hanging, swinging (librating), and

spinning tether, including a form of the 7+4d rule of [51].

It is shown in [11] that such rules do not take all the

possible dynamical effects into consideration. An extended

rule is derived, for both orbit raising and lowering,

which takes orbital radius, tether length, and angular

orbital and tether pitch velocities into account. This is

shown to work well in some practically useful data cases. A

Motorised Momentum Exchange Tether (MMET) on a

circular orbit is considered and the nonlinear ordinary

differential equation for this is used to develop an

analytical spin-up criterion, which can also be compared

with appropriately interpreted results of numerical integration of the governing ODE. This paper shows that a

motorised tether can improve on the orbit raising

magnitude, and the librating tether is roughly twice as

effective as its hanging counterpart. The paper also

distinguishes between performance and efciency and

suggests that in some circumstances short tethers can be

advantageous in terms of efciency (orbit raising parameter divided by tether propulsion length) despite their

lower actual performance (measured in terms of the orbit

raising parameter) than for longer tethers.

Tether retrieval is the opposite of deployment and is

equally important in dynamical terms. Retrieval of a subsatellite to a larger vehicle, specically a space station, is

examined by Djebli et al. [62]. This work was published in

2002 and concentrates on laws for retrieval (and also

deployment) specically combining simple (linear or

exponential retrieval) and fast laws in which specic

acceleration proles are proposed. This would be applicable to passive momentum exchange tethers, MMETs, and

potentially to ED tethers too. Fast (hyperbolic) retrieval is

particularly advantageous because it tends to damp

transverse vibrations in the tether, particularly when

preceded by a simple sinusoidal retrieval law. Although

ED tethers are dealt with in Section 3 it is pertinent to

mention at this stage the work of Pelaez et al. of 2002 [63]

in which an ED tether is modelled as a two-bar system. The

bars are articulated so that they can rotate relative to each

other by means of an assumed universal joint. One end of

the two-link tether is attached to a massive host spacecraft

and the other end comprises a point end mass. The

dynamics of the tether are modelled analytically by means

of Lagrangian dynamics, and the ED forces are introduced

within the generalised forces terms since they do not derive

physically from a potential. It is important also to note that

this model is adapted to the ProSEDS mission, [16,49], and

is based on the intention that for such systems the second

section is non-conductive and gravity gradient stabilised,

thereby simplifying the general equations of motion. The

authors consider this work to be an evolution of the

dynamics of a dumb-bell model, applicable to ED and

purely mechanical tethers. It shows that two modes of

motion in the form of libration and lateral oscillation are

both unstable in the absence of damping, the former

growing slowly whilst the latter develops more quickly. The

lateral instability is shown to grow particularly rapidly

above a critical value of the ED to gravity gradient force

ratio. An in-depth treatment of the rigid body dynamics of

tethers in space is given by Ziegler [54]. In this work the

dumb-bell tether is modelled at various levels of accuracy,

and approximate analytical solutions are obtained by

means of the method of multiple scales for periodic

solutions. Comprehensive dynamical systems analyses are

summarised for different congurations and models, and

global stability criteria for a rigid body dumb-bell tether, in

both passive and motorised forms, are dened and

investigated. Further treatment of the spin-up criterion of

[11] is also provided. Further work by Mazzoleni and

Hoffman, [58], is of interest and relevance here, dealing

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M.P. Cartmell, D.J. McKenzie / Progress in Aerospace Sciences 44 (2008) 121

elastically tethered, satellite systems, undergoing nonplanar spin-up. In 2007, McKenzie [13] explored the

dynamics of the MMET to include an analysis of the

system on an inclined orbit and while undergoing deployment. Similar modelling techniques were used to investigate space-web dynamics, producing a stability map of the

rotating space-web. Further relevant cross-references are

available in [2,14,30].

2.4. Tether models in which flexural effects are introduced

The implication of the general dumb-bell model

approach is that the tether is treated as a rigid body,

however, that is not necessarily the case if axial stretch is

allowed, and although then it may still be a dumb-bell in

appearance it is no longer a rigid body in mathematical

terms. Therefore, once that freedom is accommodated it

becomes interesting to cater for further, more generic,

forms of elasticity within the tether. The rigid dumb-bell

tether is useful, however, not only for gaining an understanding of general global motions of a tether in space, but

also as a fundamental tool for mission conceptualisation.

In practice it is almost certainly the case that elastic models

will be needed, and particularly so when very high

accuracies are required both in predicting the tether

location and orientation, but also in properly understanding the deformation of a tether in cases where the

application is particularly demanding. This will frequently

be the case in high-performance multi-line systems with

high levels of built-in fail-safe redundancy, and also in

tether-based structures such as orbiting stellar interferometers and space webs. In the case of the orbiting stellar

interferometer DeCou [64] showed in 1989 that planar

deformation of a spinning system comprising three

collimating telescopes at the corners of an equilateral

triangle made up from three interconnecting tethers would

be inevitable due to the inertia of the tethers. Clearly

inertia-less tethers will not deform centripetally and will,

instead, merely stretch into straight lines due to the tension

created along their length by the corner masses as the

whole system rotates. The other case is where the corner

masses are zero and the tether mass density is nite, and

then the triangle will necessarily deform into a circle. In

practice we get something in between and this is shown in

the paper by including nite corner and tether masses,

along with in-plane deformation of the tethers. The tethers

are broken down into segments and an iterative procedure

is used to calculate the static shape that the system

assumes. Axial stretch has already been mentioned as a

parameter of fundamental importance in real systems. In

long, high-performance propulsion tethers this could be

very considerable, and will severely limit the applicability

of rigid body modelling to anything other than system

conceptualisation. A straightforward but compelling piece

of work by Bernelli-Zazzera from 2001, and reported in [9],

in which motion control is proposed for a tether in which

applied by means of a short boom to which the deployer

end of the tether is attached. The tether is free to move

essentially as a conical elastic pendulum, and a terrestrial

example is given in which a gravitational restoring force is

included in a vertically orientated system. The stretch of

the tether results in bobbing oscillations which couple

with the pendulum motion. The work is also of interest

from a control and instrumentation point of view. The

control is by means of planar rotational motion of the

boom and is used within a linearised system model, noting

that simulations were performed using a nonlinear model.

Feedback of tether strain rate is used, in practice by means

of an accelerometer within the end mass, and maximum

damping of the bobbing oscillation is used to evaluate the

optimal gain for the system. It is shown that the out-ofplane angle of the tether decouples from the rest of the

system dynamics and so is uncontrollable, thus reducing

the system to a planar elastic pendulum. The relevance of

the work is in the effectiveness of the boom control

actuator in minimising both the bobbing and the planar

swing oscillations using simple actuation and control. In

contrast with this Hokamoto et al. [65] consider a tethered

space robot, conceptualised in their 2001 paper as a rigid

body at the end of an elastic tether connected at its other

end to a larger rigid body in the form of a main satellite.

The system is constrained to motion in the orbital plane.

Two links are attached to the robot satellite and are used as

a manipulator to control the system. Torques are applied

momentarily to the manipulator to effect the control and

although strain energy in both axial and lateral tether

deformation is initially included the paper does not state if

and how this is developed, although the theoretical

principles are all summarised. Extremely good tether swing

minimisation is achieved for pragmatic data. Tethered

interferometers based on different constellational congurations are considered by Quadrelli [66], with a general

analysis for an n-body system where each body represents a

spacecraft within the three-dimensional constellation and

each interconnecting tether comprises N point masses,

connected by massless springs and viscous dampers.

Quadrelli points out that there are two ways to treat tether

deployment with a lumped mass model; either the mass of

the mass-points is kept constant, with varying number

which is said to imply a mass creation and elimination

procedure, or the number of mass-points is kept constant

so that their masses will vary. Clearly, the rst approach is

more complicated than the second and so a general analysis

is given for that, with a three spacecraft model used as a

basis for the derivation, as briey summarised in the paper.

An important feature of this paper is that thermomechanical modelling is included, and that a link is

provided between the dynamics and control aspects of

tethered formation ying. This is specically for interferometer applications which concentrate on a threespacecraft/two-tether system and a four-spacecraft/threetether system; noting back to the work of McKenzie and

ARTICLE IN PRESS

10

research is to generate recongurable control schemes for

very general congurations of tethered interferometers.

The paper by Bombardelli et al. [67] investigates the issue

of rotation plane change of a dipole-like interferometer

comprising two end-located collectors and one central

combiner, and proposes an open-loop control strategy for

high-precision re-targetting.

An interesting concept for a tethered space manipulator

is given by Woo and Misra [68] in which a tether is

proposed as a means of extending the range of a

manipulator with little mass and fuel cost. Their system

comprises a two-link manipulator, a tether, and a spacecraft. Modelling assumptions are that the robot manipulators arms are rigid links and the tether is rigid and

straight, with a point mass located at each joint in the

system and at the end effector. The centre of mass of the

system is coincident with the centre of mass of the

spacecraft, and describes a circular orbit around Earth.

Planar motion of the system is assumed, and four angular

generalised coordinates are used to dene this. Although

the tether is considered to be in tension, and rigid as a

result, the authors concede that there can be theoretical

conditions in which the tether tension goes negative, and

therefore changes to compression. Their remedy for this is

to calculate tension from an analytical expression during

the simulations in order to ensure that the results are

physically meaningful. Time histories of this, together with

joint torques and overall end-effector position, are

calculated and feasible paths for the end effector are given

with certain torque restriction and various initial conditions. The end result of this is an algorithm, based on a

globally convergent form of Newtons method, for

determining whether a feasible path exists between the

end effector at its extended vertical position and the desired

end point. Ishige et al. [69] introduce the concept of using

an ED tether for space debris removal, on the basis that it

can be considered initially as a simple dumb-bell (assumed

to be rigid) but with signicant tether mass lumped into a

single point, and then as a discretised mass model within

which exibility is allowed by using parallel springs and

viscous dampers as interconnections between the discrete

tether masses. The geomagnetic eld is modelled as a single

magnetic dipole with titled axis and the magnetic eld

vector expressed in inertial coordinates. The tether debris

removal strategy is based on a sequence of tether

deployment and ED activity by which means the debris

item is lowered sufciently to burn up in the atmosphere.

The tether exibility couples with the orbital dynamics,

although the paper does not discuss this in particular

detail, however, tension variation effects are noted.

Practical guidelines are given for the application of such

a system, notwithstanding that the mass of the debris item,

compared with that of the service satellite at the other end

of the tether, could signicantly affect system stability.

Some useful further references relating to this work are in

[62,63].

In this section the emphasis is on proposals and

methodologies for the application of some form of control

of tethers in space. A highly readable and useful discussion

of the use of motor driven momentum exchange tethers for

lunar and interplanetary exploration is given by Puig-Suari

et al. [70] and is another exposition of the motorised concept

also proposed by Cartmell [53] and also cited in Refs.

[4,10,11,13,24,27,54,55,56]. In [70], the authors explore the

use of uniform tethers and tapered tethers, with a discussion

of the attendant tether mass ratio. The important conclusion

is made that tethers can be superior in mass terms to

traditional chemical rockets for low-speed manoeuvres, but

inferior for high-speed applications. Useful relationships

between the energy required to spin up a tapered tether and

energy converted by solar cells per unit area are given,

within the approximate range 0.151.5 m2/kg of payload.

The paper also summarises the problem of the provision of

counter-inertia with motor drive designs. This is also a

feature of the work of [53] and its extensions cited above.

The authors of [70] also state that orbiting tether facilities

can be extremely efcient in missions where many spacecraft

launches are proposed, with particular advantages of general

simplicity and reusability of the tether systems, however, it is

generally acknowledged that this does not necessarily extend

to the orbital control and maintenance requirements for

tethers which can be rather demanding, particularly

for high-performance interplanetary propulsion [13,53,54],

in addition to ancillary hardware reliability problems,

particularly in storage and deployer systems, and brakes.

Several hardware and software implementation studies have

taken place, with an early contribution provided by

Gwaltney and Greene [71] in which the Getaway Tether

Experiment, GATE, is discussed. A simple dynamical

model of the planar libration dynamics is used in

conjunction with a tether tension law based on length and

length rate feedback, and other (cited) work has shown that

this can produce desirable stabilisation characteristics

during deployment and retrieval. In [71], the authors

investigate the implementation of such control schemes

within prototype hardware which is specically designed

for space ight; cross-reference with [23,72] for further

discussions of specic hardware designs. The mechanical

details of the implementation examined in [71] (stepper

motor driven reel and wind mechanisms) are perhaps less

important than the techniques used, for which simulations

showed that the planar libration amplitude of an uncontrolled test tether of 10 m in length would reduce from 7.01

to 1.31 within 53 s, whereas yo-yo control, based on length

variation at libration amplitude zero and peak excursion

values, could get this down to 41 s, and phasing control,

based on length variation at angular positions slightly before

these points, could improve that further, with times down to

36 s. These predictions appear to have been backed up by

experimental tests, although relatively little detail of these is

given in the paper.

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dynamic isolation of payloads from a mother satellite or

spacecraft. Ohkami et al. [73] discuss this in the context of

payload and space station interactions for microgravity

control in the payload. A three mass system is modelled,

comprising the base vehicle, the platform, and a ballast

mass, connected in series by two tethers. Platform

translations and rotations are considered and the equations

are linearised on the assumption that for microgravity

applications the deections from the equilibrium state are

small. Highly accurate microgravity manipulation is

available for simple feedback control. In the case of large,

controlled, tether motions, as would be required for waste

disposal and capsule re-entry operations, nonlinear dynamics are unavoidable, but alternatives to fully analytical

nonlinear controller design such as fuzzy logic can provide

very effective control. This is discussed for a tether initiated

re-entry application and a waste disposal system by Licata

[74], in which a feedback system based on simple fuzzy

logic rules controls the variable rate deployment for a

deployer reel-brake assembly design, within a simulation,

using realistic data. It is worth noting that this procedure is

applied to medium length tethers of up to approximately

25 km. The control of robots remote from their space

vehicle is revisited again in the work of Nohmi et al. [75];

also refer to [68], where translational momentum of the

centre of mass of the tethered robot is controlled by tether

tension, and angular momentum control, with respect to

the tethered robots mass centre, is based on proper control

of the tether attachment point and tether. These controls

are effected by manipulations of tether tension and link

motion in the case of a generalised robot in the form of

n+1 rigid bodies (links) connected through rotational

joints. The tether itself is considered to be a massless rigid

link from the centre of mass of the spacecraft, subjected

only to tension and with a time dependent length. A

reaction wheel, jet, or thrust, is required to control angular

momentum about the tether. It is shown that the link

motion of the tethered robot can be satisfactorily split into

two sub-tasks i.e. end-effector motion and tether attachment point motion, and that compensation for signicant

impulsive disturbances is robust and effective. Tension

moments for four short tethers used to connect two

spacecraft halves have been shown by Kumar and Kumar

[76] to be good for the control of two aspects of system

motion by means of a combined open-loop control law

together with a simple feedback scheme. The motions

considered for control are longitudinal system drift with

respect to the ground station and attitude excitation

induced by eccentricity. This work relates to the TSS as

mentioned in Section 2.2, on the assumption that the TSS

comprises two identical satellites connected through very

short tethers, with the anchor points located on the

principal roll axis and symmetrically offset from the centre

of mass of each satellite. Tether mass is neglected and the

planar angular motion case is considered. The pitching

angles of the two satellite halves, the tethers, and the tether

11

angular and one translational generalised coordinate.

Length variation can be controlled in order to force the

system into certain motions and ultimately a special hybrid

tether length control law is proposed. It is shown that

effective control can be achieved using tethers as short as

10 m. The combination of open-loop and feedback control,

in this context, results in a signicant improvement in

attitude precision for system alignment along the line-ofsight. This is proposed as a viable alternative to station

keeping manoeuvres required for geostationary satellites,

particularly in cases when onboard fuel is nearing

exhaustion.

Offset control of a tethered sub-satellite from a large

platform is investigated by Pradhan et al. [77], on the basis

of the TSS concept once again, where the offset mechanism

takes the form of a manipulator attached to the platform

capable of providing movement of the platform end of the

tether in the local horizontal and vertical directions. The

tether is modelled as a exible string and the assumed

modes method is used for discretisation. Motions are

restricted to the orbital plane, and generalised coordinates

for platform and tether pitch, together with tether modal

coordinates, are used to dene the system motions.

Damping is usefully included by means of Rayleighs

dissipation function and the generalised force vector

represents momentum gyros located near the centre of

mass of the platform and thrusters at the tether subsatellite end. Modelling accuracy is determined by checking

the total system energy and comparing the frequencies of

the linearised system with those available in the literature.

The Feedback Linearization Technique (FLT) is used to

control the attitude dynamics whereas a robust LQG

control is used for the vibrational modes. The paper

concentrates on controller design and overall offset control

is seen to be effective for the regulation of platform pitch

and tether vibrations but less so for tether attitude, for

which large offset motions are required. A HypersonicAirplane Space-Tether Orbital Launch Vehicle (HASTOL)

architecture has been proposed by Hoyt [78] in which

several sub-concepts are proposed within the architecture

for the transportation of large payloads into Earth orbit.

The concept species a hypersonic aeroplane to carry a

substantial payload up to an altitude of 80100 km at a

speed of Mach 1013. The aeroplane is intended to

rendezvous with the tip of a long rotating tether which

swings down from a massive facility in Earth orbit. A

grapple vehicle at the tether tip receives the payload which

is then pulled up by the tether into orbit. The system is said

to offer launch cost reduction because a conventional

launch vehicle requires a total DV of around 7.5 km/s

whereas the HASTOL launch vehicle only needs to provide

about 3.5 km/s to the payload. This paper summarises

concepts for three different tether systems for use within

HASTOL and shows that a rotating tether is optimal,

particularly if it connects with the highest possible apogee

for the hypersonic spaceplane. Methods are given for

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12

measured in seconds. The work conrms, entirely by means

of numerical simulations, that the HASTOL concept, as

dened, is pragmatic and controllable. Fujii et al. [79]

consider a three degree of freedom nonlinear analytical

model for a terrestrial deployment model for a tether with a

oating balloon at its upper end, in order to obtain an

understanding of the rotation, attitude, and deployed

length when the simple balloon tensioned system is

subjected to aerodynamic drag and is under the inuence

of a specic control law. The control law is designed to

suppress the motion of the system and to adjust the tether

length. The tension supplied by the balloon is of the order

of a few Newtons and experiment and simulations based on

the analytical model are compared. The concept of virtual

mass is incorporated into the analytical models equations

of motions, whereby it is found that the uid surrounding a

body which is accelerating within it (like the balloon in this

case) seems to increase the mass of the body, and this is not

negligible when the orders of magnitude of the mass of the

body and the virtual mass are close. In the case of this

system it is found that the presence of virtual mass

improves the accuracy of the model. Whilst this in itself

is not directly relevant to the performance of tethers in

space it provides a very good means of testing important

microgravity effects, with the assurance of a fair degree of

controllability. Attitude stabilisation of tethered spacecraft

conrmed as a major issue and conguration-based control

of attitude has been shown, by Kumar and Yasaka [80], to

be an elegant solution. In this work the authors start from

the general literature nding that a single tether connecting

a main satellite or vehicle to an auxiliary mass requires

feedback control to ensure attitude stability of the satellite,

but that a two-tether system can improve on this

performance. On this basis these authors present a kitelike conguration comprising three tether spans, the top

two emanating from points on the (upper) satellite

symmetrically offset from the centre of mass and terminating at a common connecting point below from which the

third span hangs down, ending in the auxiliary mass.

The authors summarise a nonlinear non-dimensionalised

Lagrangian model comprising 10 generalised coordinates

and show by means of a stability analysis for the linearised

system about equilibrium that certain physical constraints

are necessary for stability, but that this is achievable and

potentially inherently so; see also Quadrelli [66]. The single

tether stabilisation problem is discussed by Cho and

McClamroch [81] and the control objective here is slightly

more strict, requiring not only attitude control of the

satellite but that this is consistent with small tether

motions. They do this in two ways, initially by decoupling

the attitude dynamics from the tether dynamics and then

designing in a linear feedback to stabilise the attitude, and

also by using a Kalman decomposition to decouple

uncontrollable modes and then using linear feedback to

stabilise the controllable modes. They conclude that for

roll-yaw attitude stabilisation, which is more demanding

works best because less actuator movement is required and

the tether dynamics are generally less affected. We return

to ED tethers, and a model leading to a specic type of

dynamic instability when working in inclined orbits in the

paper by Pelaez and Lara [82]. The instability is

independent of tether exibility and so the tether is

modelled as a dumb-bell with end masses. The geomagnetic

eld is represented by a non-tilted dipole model and

constant tether current is assumed. The electrodynamics

force the system dynamics equations and the paper gives a

full account of the stability of the tether in terms of the

inuence of the orbit inclination and a parameter

representing the magnitude of the ED force on the tether.

A numerical algorithm based on the Poincare method of

continuation of periodic orbits is used to extend previous

asymptotic analyses. The paper shows that high inclinations are not initially seen to be appropriate for vertical ED

tethers and it is shown that for a given inclination there is a

critical value of the ED magnitude parameter beyond

which destabilisation is signicantly accentuated. Tether

current control can help to alleviate such effects, but it is

recommended that such tethers are generally better off

being operated away from this sort of threshold. The paper

also shows that there are many unstable periodic solutions

to this tether system and that such regimes are unsuitable

for long-term ED tether operation. Introducing motor

drive to a momentum exchange tether has many advantages but it has been shown by the authors, and others

[11,13,26,53,54] that the interactions between local motor

drive leading to tether spin and orbital mechanics are far

from straightforward and that such systems are capable of

very rich dynamics. Cartmell et al. [4] show that scale

modelling, and performance prediction based on this, is a

useful way forward when attempting to generate pragmatic

data for the dynamics of controllable motorised tethers. In

[4], it is shown that a symmetrically designed motorised

tether, with the motor drive placed centrally and driving

the two sub-spans, with inertial counter-balance, provides

a basis for optimised performance. The proposal utilises

the concept of payload release symmetry whereby the two

payloads are released simultaneously from the ends of the

tether sub-spans at the point when the system is aligned

normal to the tangent to the orbit. Therefore the inner

payload is de-boosted and the outer payload is boosted.

The paper treats a simplied terrestrial (on-ice) model by

means of classical scaling theory using the Buckingham Pitheorem. It is shown that even for the restricted dynamics

of this system that certain very important trade-offs

between mass and geometrical parameters have a signicant effect on the systems ability to spin-up, and it is

proposed that insights and enhancements at this level are

likely to improve the performance of motorised tethers in

orbit. The work also provides a basis for full size system

generation from the scale model, or vice versa. Tether

vibrations were also investigated, by means of a threedimensional stretched string model, and scaling laws

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showed that there is a numerical incompatibility when

trying to scale rigid body spin-ups and exural tether

vibrations at the same time. Therefore, a clear case for

multi-scale modelling is made in this paper. A simple despin concept is also proposed for payloads in order to

direct angular momentum in spin of the payload at and

after release back to the spinning tether system, and an

initial two degree of freedom nonlinear model is introduced

and discussed. One of the questions raised by this work

relates to the dynamics of tethers after payload release, and

how they can be controlled when the tether effectively

becomes a trailing structure. This general problem is rather

universal and generally independent of tether type or the

conguration in which it is used. The paper by Rossi et al.

[83] of 2004 provides an interesting account of the likely

periodic motions of a tether trailing satellite, with attention

paid both to the motion of the satellite and the tether. The

scenario that the paper considers is when a tether

connecting two satellites is cut as a consequence of an

accident or a planned manoeuvre. It is assumed that the

Earth centred frame is inertial, that the satellite can be

modelled as a point mass, the tether is homogeneous with

uniform density, the torsional and transversal vibrations of

the tether can be neglected, and elasticity follows Hookes

law. The model comprises partial and ordinary differential

equations and applies the well-known wave equation in an

orbital context, together with the effects of atmospheric

drag and Earth oblateness. This signicant work shows

that the existence of periodic solutions for such a system

does not depend on the equilibrium state when gravitational and oblateness terms predominantly drive the

dynamics. The important features relate solely to tether

density, length, exibility, and rotational speed. However,

shorter stiffer systems tend to exhibit periodic motions

about their equilibrium states. In the case where atmospheric drag inuences the system at all signicantly it is

found that tether trailing satellites are strongly inuenced

by the equilibrium state; this is because the gravitational

and oblateness forces are uniformly bounded independent

of position, whereas drag forces do not behave like this and

so linearisation about the equilibrium states is required. So,

the existence of periodic motions with bounded forces is

found to depend just on tether parameters, but unbounded

(linear) growth depends on the equilibrium states. Several

interesting cross-references can be found in [9,42,57,62,65,

66,68].

2.6. Practical tether designs and proposed system

technologies

It has already been shown that an important objective of

tether modelling is to generate data that can be used for

pragmatic designs which will perform optimally and

predictably when in orbit. Carroll proposed a preliminary

design for a 1 km/s tether transport system [84] in orbit

around the Earth, the Moon, or Mars. This paper is

13

payload) tether in what the author denes as a barely

spinning mode, where the system spin rate is approximately synchronous with the orbital period. The author

gives substantial numerical data for practically useful

mission applications about Earth, the Moon, and Mars,

on the basis of how tethers might operate within certain

payload delivery and retrieval scenarios about those

bodies. In addition the paper discusses practical proposals

for a traction-winch tether spool-store system with

controllable feed and cites interesting critical reeling rates

for different stored lengths up to 200 km. The paper also

discusses concepts for testing thick tethers under highrepetition cyclical reeling at low temperatures, and capture

hardware design is proposed based on the criteria of large

capture zone and design simplicity, in the form of a hook

and bag system. The paper also considers capture and

release transients that inevitably arise and which drive

sudden changes in equilibrium tether tension and length,

together with some comments on general deployment

strategy and general operational conditions. Retrieval of

a tether and point-mass payload to a massive spacecraft is

considered in some detail in the paper by Chernousko [85].

The conguration comprises a reeled out tether and endmass payload swinging from below the spacecraft and is

restricted to a planar analysis. The forces acting on the

system comprise tether tension, gravitational force, and

inertial forces (centripetal (centrifugal) and Coriolis). The

author suggests four different practical ways of controlling

the retrieval process, rstly by using small motors on the

satellite to generate reaction forces perpendicular to the

tether, moving the tether emanation point on the spacecraft

relative to the spacecraft in order to suppress oscillations,

controlling small deviatory motions of the spacecraft in

order to suppress oscillations, or controlling tether tension

during retrieval. This paper considers several important

cases, specically for constant tether length, oscillations at

a constant winding rate, small tether oscillations, nonlinear

oscillations, and control of the retrieval process. Control is

achieved by a two-stage process in which the tether is

initially maintained at constant length during which phase

trajectories are used to determine the necessary constant

rate of winding in the second stage. The second stage

proceeds and operates at the calculated winding rate until

retrieval is complete.

Trade-offs between tether mass, strength, and longevity

are of fundamental importance and in the case of

momentum exchange tethers one of the most interesting

concept proposals to emerge has been that of the

Hoytether, Forward and Hoyt [41,86], in which a multiyear lifetime is proposed for an open tubular tri-axial net.

This design consists of axial load bearing primary lines

with cross-linking at intervals by diagonal secondary lines,

which are only loaded if the section of primary line that

they surround fails for some reason. The most likely cause

of failure in such a scenario is due to high-velocity

micrometeoroids or space debris. Due to this design the

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14

the load is re-distributed within the secondary lines around

this region. The authors claim a Hoytether lifetime in the

order of decades rather than the less-than-full-mission

capability of single line tethers. Further practical ideas

resulted in the Rapunzel small tether mission for tether

assisted payload re-entry. This is discussed in the paper by

Sabath et al. [87] and was intended to be a small tether

mission whose deployer was tested in a parabolic ight in

1995. The deployer consists of a tether box containing a

spooled tether of 63 km and a brake and compensator

based on textile industry technology. The deployer was

found to perform quite well during the microgravity

conditions of the parabolic ight with good tension control

in evidence. However, despite the effectiveness of tether

designs and their deployment systems the space debris

mitigation problem is one that has had to be addressed in

recent times. The work of Rex [88] highlights some of the

spacecraft design changes that would be effective in debris

mitigation. Two principal approaches are highlighted;

passivation, in which onboard stored chemical propellants

are removed in order to prevent debris generation by

explosions, and the deliberate de-orbiting of larger orbiting

objects to reduce the possibility of collision. ED tethers are

suggested for de-orbiting applications, and this has also

been explored by others, notably Hoyt and Forward [86].

Clearly the orbital debris problem also affects the use of

tethers and this is explored further in the work of Draper

[24]. Very short tethers could be feasibly used to achieve

controllable satellite pitch and roll attitude manoeuvres,

Kumar and Kumar [89], and an in-depth dynamical model

description is given for a short four-tether system connecting a satellite to an auxilliary mass, and the synthesis of

open-loop tether length control laws. Good control of

complex manoeverability is obtained for sufciently slow

tether length variation, together with small amplitude

oscillations about the desired nal equilibrium position.

This could be an important methodology for safe satellite

operation in certain circumstances and the general issue of

safe operation of tethers, particularly in unscheduled

operations, from the ISS is discussed in a practically

focused analysis by Trivailo et al. [90]. Unscheduled

operations are meant to cover instances of unexpected

severance, and interference between the tether and other

hardware. Both type of event has been shown to be

possible in tether retrieval operations, particularly if socalled skip-rope modes are initiated. The paper shows that

instabilities can be caused by an excessive retrieval rate and

also by skip-rope motion, both of which can give rise to

severance or interference with other hardware. Dynamic

simulations show that interference with the ISS itself would

be likely, with severance as the nal outcome.

Tether missions involving interplanetary propulsion or

the orbit raising of major payloads will inevitably require

the use of a reusable space plane system capable of liaising

with a tether for payload handover. Considerable conceptual work on this issue has been carried out, reported by

in Section 2.5, has resulted in proposals for the Hypersonic

Airplane Space Tether Orbital Launch (HASTOL) vehicle.

This technology overview provides insights into the

possibilities of ying a 15 tonne payload in a ballistic arc

to reach Mach 1013 at an altitude of 80100 km.This

liaises with a grapple mechanism at the end of a rotating

600 km tapered tether in a 700 km orbit, as a highway to

space. The authors promote HASTOL as a completely

reusable, cost-cutting technology for Earth-to-orbit space

access. In a similar vein Hoyt [92] discusses the design and

simulation of a tether boost facility for transport from

LEO to GTO. Proposals for boosting 2.5 tonnes from LEO

to GTO every 30 days are discussed in the paper and it is

also stated that the same facility could be used to boost

1 tonne payloads to LTO. The tether in this system is

tapering but comprises multiple lines to provide both

strength and redundancy, possibly in the form of a

Hoytether [41]. The orbital dynamics are summarised and

the use of an ED tether is discussed. The theme of

deployability continues to receive attention and Pascal et

al. [93] have shown that the use of a crawler sub-satellite

which moves along the tether during retrieval can be

stabilising, particularly if combined with appropriate

length control laws in the form of an intermediate scheme

generalising the previously proposed conventional scheme

and the crawler scheme. The paper presents an in-depth

dynamical treatment of such a scenario and shows by

means of a numerical simulation that the so-called

intermediate scheme reduces the amplitude of oscillation

during retrieval several times over those of the conventional or crawler schemes. The use of crawlers is also

examined in the paper by Goff and Siegel [94] in which two

massive nuclear electric crawlers are tted to the sub-spans

of a symmetrical momentum exchange tether with centralised facility. This is described as boot-strapping and is

proposed as a means of angular speed control in which the

two crawlers move in or out from the centre as required.

Control and stabilisation of tethered systems is examined

for three body congurations by Misra [95] in which a

double-ended payload system, complete with sizeable

centralised facility mass, is analysed in detail. The

assumptions made relate to inextensible, straight-line,

mass-less tethers, with point mass payloads, with the

system COM on a circular orbit and undergoing planar

dynamics. Local angular coordinates are introduced,

allowing the two sub-spans to be at different angles, to

give a two degree of freedom model for which four

principal equilibrium conditions are evaluated. The stability of the equilibrium conditions is investigated for small

perturbations and the eigenvalues of the characteristic

equation show that at best there can be marginal stability

for certain specic conditions, but no asymptotic stability.

Spinning tethers are normally assumed to operate as dumbbells, with axially aligned sub-spans due to centripetal

stiffening during rotation. However, Misra [95] shows that

in cases where this is absent for some reason then the

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such cases practical issues of alternative stability have to be

considered. This could have relevance to both pre and post

tether spin-up scenarios.

Powell et al. [96] provide interesting insights into the use

of technology for magnetically inated cables for the

construction or deployment of large and highly rigid space

structures. The idea is based on launching the magnetically

inatable cables (MIC) as a compact package of coiled

superconducting cables, which would be cryogenically

cooled and electrically energised on reaching orbit. This

would result in magnetic repulsion, which would then allow

the coiled package to self-deploy into the intended

structural conguration. A network of high-strength

tethers would be required to hold the superconducting

cables in place. This has some similarities in terms of the

end result with the work on space webs by McKenzie and

Cartmell [12] and McKenzie [13]. It is possible that long

structures could also be made this way, which could

themselves operate as large capacity tethers. Hybrid

designs involving two or more tether technologies could

be of great utility for certain space missions. A case in point

is the MXER concept [19,21,22] as discussed already in

Sections 2.1 and 2.2. In [22], Sorensen considers the

conceptual design of an MXER tether boost station,

concluding that a single tether in an elliptical equatorial

orbit could replace staged tethers, using propellantless ED

reboost with highly error-tolerant payload catch mechanisms and tether-end mass concentration.

An interesting practical problem associated with tether

system operation in space relates to the detection of

tethered satellites or payloads, as distinct from free yers.

This problem is addressed by Choe et al. [97]. The ideas in

this paper are based on the fact that the constrained

motion of two or more tethered satellites is quite different

to that of a single satellite with the same position and

velocity at some given instant. The effect of this is that a

conventional orbit detection algorithm for a single satellite

will over predict the orbit of the upper satellite in a tethered

pair and, conversely, will under predict the orbit of the

lower satellite. Two and three satellite tethered systems are

modelled using a multi-body formulation in which constant

length constraints are modelled by means of Lagrange

multipliers. The paper shows that the constraint force

between two satellites in a tethered system, due to the

tether and gravity, can be regarded as a tension expressed

by a Lagrange multiplier which can be used to give the

tether acceleration, and which can be extended to an nbody system where some of the bodies are tethered and

some are not. Observations of the motions of all possible

combinatory pairs of satellites within the system allows

tethered and untethered satellites to be distinguished from

one another, by recognition of non-zero tether acceleration

per unit length (Lagrange multiplier/mass of each satellite).

The information provided by this sort of technique will be

of increasing importance as tether missions increase in

quantity in the future.

15

throughout the paper, and for good reason as robust

assurance of controllability is necessarily a central theme in

all architecture and mission plans. The work of Williams

et al. [98] has shown that so-called receding horizon control

using quasi-linearisation and Chebyshev pseudospectral

approximations can effectively be applied for tethers, and

that this does not require extensive computations, and in

fact is reducible to the solution of simultaneous linear

equations. This has obvious implications for practical

system implementation, with good disturbance rejection

and trajectory tracking capabilities.

We conclude this section by referring to ve papers in

which specic missions for tethers are summarised. The

paper by Jokic and Longuski [99] discusses the possibility

of articial gravity provision and free-return aborts for

Mars missions, and proposes a massive tether system with

a habitation at one end and a counter mass at the other,

with rotation of the system about the COM providing

Earth gravity-like acceleration within the habitation. The

concept is centred around the idea of a propellant-free

return of astronauts to Earth in the event of an aborted

landing on Mars for 2014, 2018, 2020, and 2026 based on

the NASA Design Reference Mission. Williams et al. [100]

explain their concept for momentum-enhanced gravity

assist of a spacecraft at a destination planet by deploying a

payload on a tether from the spacecraft in such a way that

it is boosted onto a new escape trajectory. Numerical

simulations are used to validate the proposals made. A

novel method for orbital transfer of a payload by means of

a tether is offered by Kumar et al. [101] based on controlled

deployment and retrieval of the tether. They conrm that

short tether lengths are associated with higher-performance

indices than systems with longer tethers (see Ziegler and

Cartmell [11]). The Icarus student satellite project, Goldberg and Gilchrist [102], is a small active end-mass satellite

developed at the University of Michigan for the ProSEDS

ED mission. The role of ICARUS is as a data collector and

transmitter for tether deployment and dynamics, using

GPS and an aspect magnetometer. Anselmo and Pardini

[103] consider the survivability of space tether systems in

orbit specically around Earth and conrm that single line

designs are unlikely to complete their missions in such a

demanding environment, whereas a relatively simple

knotted and looped design offers much better survivability

of between 95% and 99%. A lot of related information is

also available in [2,4,9,48,50,52,6466,70,71,78,80].

2.7. Deployment scenarios and mission plans

Grassi and Cosmo [104] provide an investigation of the

attitude dynamics of the SEDS system in their paper of

1995. The equations of motion for a rigid body SEDS

payload deployed to a Delta second stage are derived

assuming that the payloads centre of mass is on a circular

orbit, the tether is straight and inelastic, the gravitational

potential can be linearised, and the attitude angles are

ARTICLE IN PRESS

16

the roll and yaw equations and for simplicity it is argued

that the remaining roll-yaw coupling can be neglected, as is

the yaw damping term. Application of the Routh-Hurwitz

stability criterion provides conditions for roll-yaw, and

pitch stability conditions. The overall nding of the work is

that payload stability for the SEDS concept is strongly

affected by the initial conditions of the deployment, and

that tumbling around the roll and yaw axes starts as soon

as the payload is ejected from the Delta second stage. An

attachment point displacement system, with motion of the

attachment point along the negative pitch axis direction, is

introduced and shown to be effective in reducing the

tumbling effect about the roll and yaw axes. These ndings

are likely to be of general relevance to many different tether

mission deployment scenarios. A general proposal for

EarthMars transportation using tethers has been given by

Forward and Nordley [61], in which rotating tethers in

highly elliptical orbits operate about each planet. The

paper starts with the observation that Hoyt and Forward

[3] designed a three tether EarthMoon system for rocketfree transportation and that much of the propulsion gain

from this concept came from the outer EEO tether,

principally because of the important and general rule that

boost of any sort is best made from deep inside a planetary

gravity well. The MarsEarth Interplanetary Tether

Transport System, or MERITT, uses the fact that a single

EEO tether, in a highly elliptical orbit, can theoretically

propel a payload to Mars. The tethers at each end are

known as EarthWhip and MarsWhip, respectively, and

rotate rapidly in highly elliptical orbits. The EarthWhip

tether collects the payload from the delivery vehicle from

Earth and releases it later when the tether is near perigee

again and the sub-span is at the high point of its swing,

this necessarily being when the tether is orientated normal

to the tangent to the orbit at perigee. The payload gains

velocity and potential energy from the tether and it then

has sufcient energy to go on a high-speed trajectory to

Mars, with no further boost needed other than mid-course

correction. The payload is then caught at periapsis by the

MarsWhip tether at the highest point of its rotation where

it has its greatest velocity with respect to Mars, and is later

released when its again at periapsis and at the lowest point

of its rotation, with delivery to the Martian atmosphere.

Importantly, the authors state that the system works in

both directions and conclude with the signicant proposal

that the MERITT concept could be applied to other

planets and moons, as a general Rapid Interplanetary

Tether Transport (RITT) system. More unusual mission

possibilities should also be mentioned, starting initially

with the work of Maccone [105] who discusses the use of

tethers to obtain magnied radio pictures of the galactic

centre from distances of 550 AU. This uses antennas

tethered to a spacecraft, with the whole system moving at

uniform speed away form the Sun on a purely radial

trajectory. Further work by Maccone [106], related to the

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), proposes

ways, for the purposes of setting up a SETI receiver system

inside the Saha crater on the far side of the Moon, in the

absence of radio frequency interference. In both variants

the tether doubles as the cable connecting the two

antennas.

The YES2 mission was intended to use a 30 km tether as

part of a sample return system from a Foton-M3 carrier

vehicle, where an inherently safe re-entry vehicle is returned

to inhabited regions of western Europe, areas which would

normally be well out of bounds for space return operations

[72]. The inherent safety feature comes from the use of a

low mass inated return vehicle (of 515 kg), which reenters the atmosphere relatively slowly and at reasonable

temperatures. The tether dynamics provide the correct reentry conditions for the re-entry vehicle, by means of

simple length feedback control. Secondary applications for

tethers are envisaged by Accettura et al. [107] in their paper

on integrated propulsion missions to Mars in which they

suggest that nuclear and superconductive magneto-plasmadynamic (MPD) propulsion could be combined for

EarthMars trajectories, and that tethers could be used

for articial gravity during interplanetary ight, and as a

space elevator in Mars Stationary Orbit, MSO. Considerable cross-referencing is available in the papers of

[16,17,21,32,48,49,51,60,62,78,79,91,102].

3. Electrodynamic tethers

3.1. Summary of operating principles

The works of Johnson et al. [16] and Sorensen [18,19]

have already been cited and discussed and it is worth reemphasising their importance and relevance in the applications of ED tether systems. The role of ED tethers is briey

summarised within the road map proposals made in [27].

Conventional ED tether applications harness the effect of

planetary magnetic elds interacting with currents actively

driven, or passively induced, in the tether. Somenzi et al.

[108] investigate the stability analysis of a conventional but

exible ED tether in terms of libration and also lateral

oscillations expanded as normal modes. Simplifying

assumptions are applied, in the form of a circular

unperturbed orbit, the system centre of mass being located

on the parent satellite, constant tether length, and

considering the satellite and ballast as point masses. The

system comprises a satellite vehicle at one end and a ballast

mass at the other, and a Lorentz-type ED force exerted on

the tether, operating either as a drag force or as a

propulsive force, dependent on the direction of the current

ow. The analysis considers the system dynamics with and

without the ED force, and it is shown that a source of

attitude instability comes from resonances occurring

between the out-of-plane libration angle and the ED

forces, for non-zero inclinations. There is coupling between

libration and the lateral modes so this instability also

affects the lateral modes, but far more so for the odd

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M.P. Cartmell, D.J. McKenzie / Progress in Aerospace Sciences 44 (2008) 121

within formation ying is worth mentioning here, particularly when used in conjunction with tethers to hold

interferometric spacecraft arrays in formation without the

use of on-board propellant. Sedwick and Schweighart [46]

showed that complete control of all relative degrees of

freedom within an array can be achieved by electromagnetic diploes and tethers, and that satellite systems can be

spun-up and controlled in terms of attitude and position in

this way. Returning to more conventional ED tether

thinking, Yamaigiwa et al. [109] discuss the dynamics of

an ED tether applied to deorbiting a space vehicle; note

appropriate cross-references to the terminator tether [86]

and ProSEDS [16,49]. Once again the Lorentz force is

exploited and the mass of the vehicle to be de-orbited is

assumed to be a very realistic 1000 kg, with a 50 kg ballast

mass at the other end of the ED tether. The authors show

that there is a maximum value of the eccentricity of the

initial orbit from which an ED tether de-orbit can feasibly

be achieved, and that the limit of the eccentricity can be

controlled by the Lorentz force, especially in the case of a

small ballast mass and a short tether. Additional useful

reference information is available in [16,63,82].

3.1.1. The TSS-1R mission

One of the most well-known tether test experiments was

the TSS-1R mission, [47,110], in which certain space

plasma-ED processes were to be explored, in conjunction

with the orbital mechanics of a gravity gradient stabilised

system of two satellites linked by a long conducting tether.

The mission is important because the tether EMF and

current reached 3.5 kV and 1 A respectively, providing

signicant insight to viable current collection processes and

the physics of high-voltage plasma shields. The TSS-1R

mission showed that motion relative to the plasma affects

current collection and has to be taken into account in the

orbital dynamics.

3.2. Practical electrodynamic tether designs and proposed

system technologies

The efcient operation of ED tethers relies inherently on

optimal exploitation of plasma physics, and the dynamic

response of ionospheric plasmas is a feature of the paper by

Zhou [111] in which a hybrid analytical-numerical method

is proposed to understand the dynamic response of a 2D

magnetoplasma to a time-dependent current source imposed across the magnetic eld, with the result that

ionospheric plasmas are seen to respond to current sources

induced by a pulsed tether through the excitation of

Whistler waves and the formation of an expanding local

current loop induced by eld-aligned plasma currents. The

author suggests that the method can be extended into three

dimensions and intimates that nonlinear phenomena and

boundary effects could well be important. Shiah et al. [112]

considered the three-dimensional simulation of current

collection in space, specically in LEO, and related their

17

Simulation (SUPS) model for the local orbital environment. The plasmas transient and asymptotic response

behaviour is investigated around a three-dimensional

satellite of realistic geometry. The plasma dynamics are

highly complex and time variant, and it is particularly

noted that the resolution time of a typical experiment is

much longer than the simulated timescale, inferring that

the experiment may not catch the transient effect in space

but emphasising that the transient effects are still very

important. The authors also note that the TSS-1R mission,

despite failing to deliver on principal objectives due to

tether failure, still showed that the measured collected

current was, in fact, around 2.5 times the theoretical

prediction [112]. Gilchrist et al. [113] undertook chamber

tests of simulated ED tethers of different geometries

operating in a dense, high-speed plasma. This important

paper considers cylindrical, at-ribbon, sparse-ribbon, and

mesh tether geometries and shows that the tape tether may

be the best design for bare ED tether geometries. The mesh

tether, with its desirable levels of built-in redundancy, did

not perform as well as the tape, and it should be noted that

end-effect uncertainties also entered into the design

assessments. Computation of current ow in a bare moving

tether formed the subject of the paper by Onishi et al. [114],

in which a particle-in-cell (PIC) method was used to

calculate electron current in a bare tether moving at orbital

velocity in the ionosphere. The PIC method was found to

agree with existing theoretical work for the quiescent

unmagnetised case, and performed well in simulating the

current collection. In the owing case particleeld

interactions associated with the uctuating potential eld

were found to appear and to enhance the current collection

for the tether, but this enhancement was not fully understood at the time of writing. The transmission line

characteristics of ED tethers are modelled by Bilen et al.

[115], with the TSS mission as the backdrop. A voltage

dependent sheath model was developed for ED tether

transmission lines and was implemented within the SPICE

circuit simulation program. This allows complete tethers to

be modelled by including circuit representations of the

tether endpoints, and includes the interactions that they

have with the tether model itself. Large current enhancements were observed at frequencies resonant with the input

reactance, but at the expense of high RF power. It was

proposed that an experiment with controlled power and

loss levels would be useful, in order to enable the direct

measurement of current enhancements. Morris et al. [116]

presented ideas for the use of eld emitter array cathodes

(FEACs) which consist of up to several thousand micron

sized cathode/gate pairs printed onto a semiconductor

wafer for cold eld emission at relatively low voltages,

providing arrays capable of A/cm2 level current densities,

as would be required for tether use. Returning to the

coupling between electrodynamics and dynamical phenomena, Ruiz et al. [117] provided a Lagrangian model for an

elastic tether from which they could perform modal

ARTICLE IN PRESS

18

tether. The intention behind this work was to create a

model that could be used to simulate the dynamics of an

ED tether on inclined orbits, where the tether is found to be

affected by a slow-growing ED instability. Damping is also

included, and both controlled and uncontrolled models are

discussed. It is found that the system is sensitive to

damping and that this generally enhances the system

controllability. The dynamic stability of ED tethers on

inclined elliptical orbits is modelled by Pelaez and Andres

[118] who study the combined effects of orbital eccentricity

and ED forces on the attitude dynamics of an ED tether.

Tragesser and San [119] give an analytical account of orbit

manoeuvring with ED tethers in which the general

perturbation equations are used to develop a guidance

algorithm for ED tethers. The algorithm presented here is

capable of performing any LEO transfer given a sufciently

long time for the manoeuvre, noting that the trajectories

generated are not necessarily optimal. Tahara et al. [120]

provide a basic study of electron collection by a bare tether

satellite and undertook ground experiments in which

metallic tethers were exposed to a simulated LEO plasma

ow, in the presence of a magnetic eld. The general

nding from this work was that the current collection

characteristics of a bare tether in space strongly depend on

the plasma velocity and the surrounding magnetic eld

strength. The stabilisation of ED tethers forms the topic of

a highly readable report by Hoyt [121] in which pendulum

librations, transverse wave oscillations, and skip-rope

modes are all investigated and control laws proposed in

the form of feedback algorithms. It is proposed that the

dynamics of ED tethers can be stabilised by means of such

algorithms during extended periods of operation. Supplementary reference information can be found in [22,69,92].

Korepanov and Dudkin [122] give a short exposition of the

research potential for ED tethers in the lower ionospheric

layers (F-layer and below), however, they conclude that

long duration space experiments at that location are not

likely to be successful due to the high risk of failure from

small high-velocity particles, however, this comes from

considering single-line tether designs as opposed to multiline redundant tethers, which would presumably fare much

better.

4. Conclusions

This paper has attempted to provide the interested

reader with a reasonably broad background to the eld of

space tether research. As has been shown, this is an

extremely active and vibrant research area internationally,

with considerable contributions made to the literature in

recent years. Clearly, space limitations limit the coverage of

this review and the authors admit full responsibility for the

choice of citations, and for any incompleteness of the

review work that has been carried out as a result of this.

The intention has been to provide the motivated student

with a signicant reference resource, notwithstanding the

been published over the whole spectrum of tether activities.

The review paper covers both momentum exchange and

ED applications, and sets theories against mission and

technology development agendas as far as practically

possible. It is shown that both momentum exchange and

electrodynamics can, both separately and together, provide

practical and workable propellantless propulsion, as well as

offering various de-orbiting and re-entry functions.

Acknowledgements

The authors are indebted to the international research

community for the ideas presented in the paper and the

second author wishes to thank his students and colleagues

for their invaluable support and their many major

contributions. The EPSRC studentship awarded to David

McKenzie is also acknowledged. Finally, we would like to

acknowledge our gratitude to Dr. Robert L.Forward, Dr.

William Berry, and Mr. Michael Eiden for their interest in,

and support of, the tether research that initiated at the

University of Edinburgh in 1996 and which we then

transferred to the University of Glasgow in 1998.

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