March 5, 2024

Spacecraft Propulsion Without Fuel Using Electrodynamic Tethers

Credit: Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.
How to propel a spacecraft without propellant? Use electrodynamic tethers. These are long, strong conductors connecting two spacecraft. When direct existing is used to the tether, the tether exerts a force on the spacecraft, triggering it to either accelerate or brake.
Such tethers may be utilized to carry out fuel-free orbital maneuvers, or deorbit satellites at the end of their working life time to avoid accumulation of orbital particles.
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid in Spain has actually proposed an enhanced tether design including thin film solar cells to gather added power for the tether plasma circuit, intended for end-of-life deorbiting.

By European Area Agency (ESA).
October 13, 2021.

The idea was proposed through ESAs Open Space Innovation Platform (OSIP) Open Discovery concepts Channel, seeking unique concepts for brand-new space research activities. This innovative idea has actually been accepted by ESA for application, in addition to numerous others.