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Analysis of Passive Attitude Stabilisation and Deorbiting of Satellites in Low Earth Orbit
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Computer Science, Electrical and Space Engineering.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Orbital debris poses a serious threat to ongoing operations in space.  Recognising this threat, the European Commission has funded the three-year Technology for Self Removal (TeSeR) project with the goal of developing a standard scalable Post Mission Disposal (PMD) module to remove satellites from orbit following the completion of their mission.  As the project coordinator and key member of the TeSeR Project, Airbus Defence and Space Germany will invest significant resources in achieving this goal over the course of the project.

This thesis details the initial analysis of potential PMD module designs conducted by the author during an internship within the AOCS/GNC department of Airbus Defence and Space Friedrichshafen between 1 April 2016 and 31 August 2016.  Three main concepts, drag sails, drag balloons and Electrodynamic Tethers (EDTs), were evaluated during this time with an emphasis on determining the ability of each design to permit passive attitude stabilisation of the satellite during PMD. 

Following the required modification of a pre-existing MATLAB/Simulink model, several key findings were made for each device concept.  It was found that no drag sail designs investigated permitted passive aerodynamic attitude stabilisation at orbit heights above 550 km.  When deorbiting from 800 km, however, the lack of the desired and stable attitude was not found to have a significant increase on the deorbit time or the area‑time product.

Drag balloon designs were predicted to be comparatively unstable and less mass efficient for deorbiting purposes, with area‑time products up to approximately 50 per cent higher than the equivalent mass drag sail designs.  In spite of this, unstable drag balloons were found to provide shorter deorbit times than stable balloons due to the contribution of the satellite body and solar array to the total frontal area of the satellite.  This indicated that attitude stabilisation is not required for satellites equipped with drag balloon devices.

Modelling of bare EDTs suggested that tethers with lengths of 1000 metres or more would not permit passive attitude stabilisation at an orbit height of 800 km.  Simulation of a 500 metre EDT, however, indicated that passive attitude stabilisation can be achieved with EDT devices and proved that EDTs can generate significantly higher drag forces than aerodynamic devices while possessing a significantly lower device mass.  Following the analysis of these results, a recommendation was made for future work to be aimed at improving the EDT model used in this investigation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 30 p.
Keyword [en]
electrodynamic, electrodynamic tether, EDT, drag augmentation, drag sail, drag balloon, passive attitude stabilisation, passive, attitude, stability, low earth orbit, LEO, deorbit, de-orbit, Post Mission Disposal, TeSeR
National Category
Aerospace Engineering
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-60323OAI: diva2:1045969
Subject / course
Student thesis, at least 30 credits
Educational program
Space Engineering, master's level
Available from: 2016-11-14 Created: 2016-11-11 Last updated: 2016-11-14Bibliographically approved

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