Io exploration with electrodynamic tethers

Claudio Bombardelli, Enrico C. Lorenzini, Davide Curreli, M. Sanjurjo-Rivo, Fernando R. Lucas, J. Peláez, Daniel J. Scheeres, M. Lara

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Electrodynamic tethers (EDT) are a promising alternative for producing the energy required in any scientific exploration mission to Io and its plasma torus, which are generally handcuffed by a scarcity of power. We propose two alternatives using EDT working in the generator regime: 1) a bare self-balanced electrodynamic tether in equilibrium position in the synodic frame Jupiter-Io, and 2) a rotating EDT orbiting around Io to generate permanent power and to provide propellantless orbital maneuvering capability. For the first alternative we derive the necessary orbital and tether design conditions for equilibrium and the system performances in terms of power generation. For the second alternative, we investigate two mission scenarios both involving a 25-km-long 5-cm-wide tape tether placed on a stable retrograde equatorial orbit around Io capable to provide kW-level useful power extracted from the fast rotating Jupiter plasmasphere. In the first scenario the tether current is controlled to provide maximum power generation. The amount of power produced and the impact on the orbit stability is investigated numerically. In the second scenario the current is controlled in order to reduce or increase the orbital energy of the system with the possibility of reaching escape velocity. Results show that EDT can be used as a permanent power production system in exploration missions to Io and the surrounding plasma torus without compromising the orbital stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference and Exhibit
StatePublished - Dec 1 2008
Externally publishedYes
EventAIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference and Exhibit - Honolulu, HI, United States
Duration: Aug 18 2008Aug 21 2008

Publication series

NameAIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference and Exhibit


OtherAIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference and Exhibit
CountryUnited States
CityHonolulu, HI


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics

Cite this

Bombardelli, C., Lorenzini, E. C., Curreli, D., Sanjurjo-Rivo, M., Lucas, F. R., Peláez, J., Scheeres, D. J., & Lara, M. (2008). Io exploration with electrodynamic tethers. In AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference and Exhibit [2008-7384] (AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference and Exhibit).