Date of Award
Master of Science
Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Eric D. Swenson, PhD.
Encountering space debris is an ever-increasing problem in space exploration and exploitation, especially in Low Earth Orbit. While many space-faring governing bodies have attempted to control the orbital lifetime post mission completion of satellites and rocker bodies, objects already in orbit pose a danger to future mission planning. Currently, governments and academic institutions are working to develop missions to remove space debris; however, the proposed missions are typically costly primary missions. This research proposes an alternative to use an upper stage rocket, to be called a chaser, already launching a primary mission near the desired debris as a host for a removal mission. This research models the alternative system as an experimental test concept deploying a target from the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter ring. A net and tether system is deployed towards the target to capture it, and at the opposite end of the tether is released a drag chute to deorbit the target. Once the capture method is proven with a cooperative body through experimentation, the target can then be an uncooperative piece of space debris of any size. The orbital life of a dead rocket body in an 800 km sun synchronous orbit can theoretically be reduced from approximately 500 years to less than a year using this method. This proposed concept is new in that it is planned as a secondary mission and the majority of the mission components will not separate from the Payload Adapter ring. This research’s initial model predictions show feasibility for this new concept.
DTIC Accession Number
Roth, Krista L.L., "Analysis of an Experimental Space Debris Removal Mission" (2017). Theses and Dissertations. 1701.