Investigating miniature electrodynamic tethers and interaction with the low earth orbit plasma

Iverson C. Bell, Kyle A. Hagen, Vritika Singh, Steven L. McCarty, James W. Cutler, Brian E. Gilchrist, Jesse K. McTernan, Sven G. Bilen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


The sub-kilogram, "smartphone"-sized satellite is a transformative concept, inspired by the success of nanospacecraft (1-10 kg) and millimeter-scale wireless sensor network concepts. These ultra-small satellites, known as picosatellites (100 g-1 kg) and femtosatellites (<100 g), show potential to be less costly to manufacture and boost into orbit. Thus, it may be possible to launch them in large numbers, enabling unique capabilities. Organized "fleets" of picoor femtosatellites, however, will need a high level of coordination and maneuverability capability (i.e., propulsion). Also, many of these satellites can have a high area-to-mass ratio, which results in a short orbital lifetime in low Earth orbit due to atmospheric drag. In this paper, we summarize studies that found that short (few meters), semi-rigid electrodynamic tethers can provide 10-g to 1-kg satellites with complete drag cancellation and the ability to change orbit. We also present progress on the Miniature Tether Electrodynamics Experiment (MiTEE), currently in development. The goal of MiTEE will be to demonstrate miniature electrodynamic tether capabilities in space and study the fundamental dynamics and electrodynamics of the propulsion system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAIAA SPACE 2013 Conference and Exposition
StatePublished - 2013
EventAIAA SPACE 2013 Conference and Exposition - San Diego, CA, United States
Duration: Sep 10 2013Sep 12 2013

Publication series

NameAIAA SPACE 2013 Conference and Exposition


OtherAIAA SPACE 2013 Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Diego, CA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Aerospace Engineering


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