Date of Award

4-22-2013

Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Engineering Physics

Department

Physical Sciences

Committee Chair

Dr. Aroh Barjatya

First Committee Member

Dr. Anthony Reynolds

Second Committee Member

Dr. Mahmut Reyhanoglu

Abstract

Space debris poses a serious threat to humanities efforts at space exploration as well as the expanding uses for earth-orbiting satellites. This thesis investigates the proposed technologies for the debris's removal both large and small. Focus is applied to the large debris removal technologies since the small size category is dominated by the ORION laser system. Furthermore, the large debris objects pose the most destructive threat upon impact to satellites. Electrodynamic tethers (EDT) as well as their control strategies, ion-beam shepherds (IBS), and tradition thruster methods are investigated for effectiveness and feasibility. Hybrid combinations of these technologies are investigated in hopes of reducing time and cost of the de-orbiting mission. A new control strategy for the EDT is outlined which is used for orbital rendezvous with debris. Results show that a hybrid technology between EDT and IBS far outperforms the individual technologies of similar mass as it utilizes the strengths of both in order to overcome each of their weaknesses. Furthermore, scaling down the hybrid system to 200kg total mass to avoid parasite fuel mass could potentially increase the effectiveness to de-orbit six large debris pieces within 200 days. Possible ion-beam plasma instabilities are hypothesized, but not investigated and are recommended for further research. A full systems analysis is recommended to determine a feasible dry mass, which can then lead to more accurate simulation results.

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