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Exploration of planetesimals by a tripartite tethered spacecraftAsteroids and comets exert such a small gravitational force that it is not practical to survey them from orbit. One must instead continuously accelerate using maneuvering rockets to move around the surface. A space exploration craft in three parts connected by lightweight cables can survey asteroids and comets, and deploy landers, without requiring the large thrusters and the continuous depletion of fuel required by a single craft. The spacecraft is deployed by spinning up from a compact configuration using low thrust jets, and then maintain surveying orbit without any major expenditure of energy. The triangular tether arrangement is stable, but care must be taken in changing orbits and with deploying and recovering samples, as can be demonstrated with a simple simulation. Even 100 km long tethers occupy a low payload fraction.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Stephens, Richard B.
(General Atomics Co. San Diego, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
April 1, 1990
Publication Information
Publication: NASA. Lewis Research Center, Vision-21: Space Travel for the Next Millennium
Subject Category
Astronautics (General)
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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