Electrodynamic Propulsion for sustainable space debris removal
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Erives, Andres and Dutta, Atri. Electrodynamic Propulsion for sustainable space debris removal. -- Fyre in STEM Showcase, 2023.
The proliferation of space debris in Earth's orbit poses significant risks to space agencies and commercial space operators due to potential collisions with space assets. Such collisions can cause severe damage to satellites and generate further debris, leading to a cascade effect known as the Kessler Syndrome. This has led to an interest in actively removing debris to control the growth of debris. Many agencies suggest removing at least 5 objects a year at a constant rate to stabilize the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) environment, in a cost-effective manner. Many studies show that systems using Chemical Propulsion (CP) requires a lot of propellant causing a CP system to be unsuitable for this operation. In this work, we study an alternative method that uses Electrodynamic Propulsion (EDP). Using comparative analysis from tests and simulations we see EDP is much more cost-effective and efficient than chemical propulsion. By comparing typical launch and operational costs of each system as well as considering each systems range of specific impulse and thrust that the technologies can deliver it is apparent that EDP systems are suitable economically while also being capable of delivering enough power to remove the debris in missions that require a high specific impulse. With the systems low costs, we can possibly couple these systems with CubeSats, which could reduce the costs much more depending on the target size of debris. EDP systems could open possibilities, due to the operational costs, for commercial operations for wholesale removal of large debris as well as in-orbit recycling.
Poster and abstract presented at the FYRE in STEM Showcase, 2023.
Research project completed at the Department of Aerospace Engineering.