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Safety criteria for flying E-sail through solar eclipse

By SpaceRef Editor
March 28, 2015
Filed under , ,

Pekka Janhunen, Petri Toivanen (Submitted on 16 Feb 2015)

The electric solar wind sail (E-sail) propellantless propulsion device uses long, charged metallic tethers to tap momentum from the solar wind to produce spacecraft propulsion. If flying through planetary or moon eclipse, the long E-sail tethers can undergo significant thermal contraction and expansion. Rapid shortening of the tether increases its tension due to inertia of the tether and a Remote Unit that is located on the tether tip (a Remote Unit is part of typical E-sail designs). We analyse by numerical simulation the conditions under which eclipse induced stresses are safe for E-sail tethers. We calculate the closest safe approach distances for Earth, Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Ceres and an exemplary 300 km main belt asteroid Interamnia for circular, parabolic and hyperbolic orbits. We find that any kind of eclipsing is safe beyond approximately 2.5 au distance, but for terrestrial planets safety depends on the parameters of the orbit. For example, for Mars the safe distance with 20 km E-sail tether lies between Phobos and Deimos orbits.

Comments: 12 pages, 4 figures, 2 tables, submitted to Acta Astronautica

Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)

Cite as: arXiv:1502.04557 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:1502.04557v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)

Submission history

From: Pekka Janhunen 

[v1] Mon, 16 Feb 2015 14:44:07 GMT (169kb,D)


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