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The effects of a realistic hollow cathode plasma contactor model on the simulation of bare electrodynamic tether systems




Blash, Derek M., author
Williams, John D., advisor
Bradley, Thomas H., committee member
Robinson, Raymond S., committee member

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The region known as Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) has become populated with artificial satellites and space debris since humanities initial venture into the region. This has turned LEO into a hazardous region. Since LEO is very valuable to many different countries, there has been a push to prevent further buildup and talk of even deorbiting spent satellites and debris already in LEO. One of the more attractive concepts available for deorbiting debris and spent satellites is a Bare Electrodynamic Tether (BET). A BET is a propellantless propulsion technique in which two objects are joined together by a thin conducting material. When these tethered objects are placed in LEO, the tether sweeps across the magnetic field lines of the Earth and induces an electromotive force (emf) along the tether. Current from the space plasma is collected on the bare tether under the action of the induced emf, and this current interacts with the Earth's magnetic field to create a drag force that can be used to deorbit spent satellites and space debris. A Plasma Contactor (PC) is used to close the electrical circuit between the BET and the ionospheric plasma. The PC requires a voltage and, depending on the device, a gas flow to emit electrons through a plasma bridge to the ionospheric plasma. The PC also can require a plasma discharge electrode and a heater to condition the PC for operation. These parameters as well as the PC performance are required to build an accurate simulation of a PC and, therefore, a BET deorbiting system. This thesis focuses on the development, validation, and implementation of a simulation tool to model the effects of a realistic hollow cathode PC system model on a BET deorbit system.


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electrodynamic tether
hollow cathode plasma contactor model
systems analysis


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