Energy harvesting on spacecraft using electrodynamic tethers

J. K. McTernan, S. G. Bilen, I. C. Bell, B. E. Gilchrist, R. P. Hoyt, N. R. Voronka

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


An electrodynamic tether can be used by satellites to harvest energy from orbital potential by using the Lorentz force interactions with the geomagnetic field. The amount of energy that can be harvested depends on the length of the tether, the type of tether, and the configuration of the plasma contactors. Satellite size sets the bounds for the configuration of the EDT system and, therefore, the magnitude of the energy budget. Large satellites have the potential to harvest as much as kilowatts at the load. Small EDT systems the size of CubeSats have the potential to produce more energy than mounted solar panels alone. EDT systems benefit very small, ChipSat-sized satellites by enabling them to maintain orbit without a significant contribution to the satellites' size and mass or the need for expendable propellant. EDTs provide a unique solution to satellites' energy and propulsion needs throughout the size and mass spectrum of current and future technology. An EDT structure utilizes the resources available in orbit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011
Event18th International Conference on Composites Materials, ICCM 2011 - Jeju, Korea, Republic of
Duration: Aug 21 2011Aug 26 2011


Other18th International Conference on Composites Materials, ICCM 2011
Country/TerritoryKorea, Republic of

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering
  • Ceramics and Composites


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