Hybrid Propulsion System for Spacecraft Swarm Aggregation using Coulomb Force

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C.M. Saaj (2007), JBIS, 60, 268-274

Refcode: 2007.60.268
Keywords: Coulomb force, Hybrid propulsion, Spacecraft swarms, Formation flying

Current studies are examining challenges involved in the deployment of micro-spacecraft swarms in Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) and other high Earth orbits for astronomical imaging, interferometry and various other applications. There are several ongoing studies on spacecraft charging issue in GEO and great progress has been made in recent years to develop efficient propulsion system using the Coulomb forces. This paper presents an overview of Coulomb forces for propulsion of micro-spacecraft in swarms and reports the first results of a novel hybrid propulsion system recently developed for close- proximity motion. This hybrid propulsion system takes advantage of Coulomb spacecraft charging, saving on fuel consumed from the conventional electric/ion thrusters on-board the spacecraft. This would reduce the spacecraft mass, launch cost and enhance the life of the mission. The other advantages of the system are reduced payload contamination and improved spacecraft positioning. The results of extensive simulation studies for swarm aggregation using ten and forty spacecraft is presented to demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed hybrid propulsion.


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