Harpoon equipped space tether system for space debris towing characterization

Theoretical mechanics


Aslanov V. S.*, Alekseev A. V., Ledkov A. S.**

Samara National Research University named after Academician S.P. Korolev, 34, Moskovskoye shosse, Samara, 443086, Russia

*e-mail: aslanov_vs@mail.ru
**e-mail: ledkov@inbox.ru


This paper studies a process of space debris removal by space tether system. The stages of space debris capture by a tethered harpoon and commencing of towing are considered. The system consists of a tug, equipped with low thrust engine; a passive object, i. e. space debris, modeled by a spread rigid body, heavier than the tug, and an elastic tether. The aim of this paper consists in defining the space tethered system parameters, which provide safe space debris towing after its capture by the harpoon. The mathematical model of described system was developed. The model accounts for of the towed object rotation around its center of mass and the possibility of the tether slack. The disturbances occurring from the harpoon impact on debris were identified for the worst case, when the harpoon enters the most distant point from the space debris center of mass. Border values of towing system parameters, ensuring safe capture and following space debris removal, were obtained by numerical simulations series. It was shown that in case of a low thrust of the tug, the system rotation could result in its transition into a chaotic mode. In case of a high-thrust, the towed object may start rotating due to the harpoon impact and a periodic disturbance of the elastic tether. The results of this work can be used for new space systems for space debris de-orbit design.


space debris, space tether system, equations of motion, dock, harpoon, chaos


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