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Shuttle Orbiter tethered subsatellite for exploring and tapping space plasmasConsideration is given to the possibilities for studies in space plasma physics offered by a subsatellite mechanically tethered above the Space Shuttle Orbiter by a long conducting wire. The proposed experiment, designated the Shuttle Electrodynamic Tether Systems (SETS) is based on the concept of collecting electrons at the subsatellite and ejecting them from the Orbiter, made possible by the emf generated by the motion of the tether across geomagnetic field lines. The power generated in this manner can be used both for practical purposes within the Orbiter and for the creation of large-amplitude plasma and electromagnetic waves within the surrounding plasma. For a conducting spherical subsatellite 30 m in diameter with a 10-km tether drawing 1 A, calculations show that emfs on the order of 1000-2000 V and energy dissipation of as much as 10,000 W can be obtained, accompanied by the generation of two regions of net electric charge in the ionosphere. Scientific studies considered for SETS include the measurement of MHD waves artificially generated in the ionosphere, the investigation of current-driven plasma instabilities, VLF wave generation and the simulation of electrodynamics associated with the motion of celestial bodies through plasma.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Banks, P. M.
(Utah State Univ. Logan, UT, United States)
Williamson, P. R.
(Utah State University of Agriculture and Applied Science, Logan, Utah, United States)
Oyama, K. I.
(Utah State Univ. Logan, UT, United States)
Date Acquired
August 11, 2013
Publication Date
February 1, 1981
Publication Information
Publication: Astronautics and Aeronautics
Volume: 19
Subject Category
Astronautics (General)
Accession Number
Funding Number(s)
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