Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics

First Advisor

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.

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