Three-body dynamics and self-powering of an electrodynamic tether in a plasmasphere

D. Curreli, E. C. Lorenzini, C. Bombardelli, M. Sanjurjo-Rivo, J. Pelaez, D. Scheeres, M. Lara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The dynamics of an electrodynamic tether in a three-body gravitational environment are investigated. In the classical two-body scenario the extraction of power is at the expense of orbital kinetic energy. As a result of power extraction, an electrodynamic tether satellite system loses altitude and deorbits. This concept has been proposed and well investigated in the past, for example for orbital debris mitigation and spent stages reentry. On the other hand, in the three-body scenario an electrodynamic tether can be placed in an equilibrium position fixed with respect to the two primary bodies without deorbiting, and at the same time generate power for onboard use. The appearance of new equilibrium positions in the perturbed three-body problem allow this to happen as the electrical power is extracted at the expenses of the plasma corotating with the primary body. Fundamental differences between the classical twobody dynamics and the new phenomena appearing in the circular restricted three-body problem perturbed by the electrodynamic force of the electrodynamic tether are shown in the paper. An interesting application of an electrodynamic tether placed in the Jupiter plasma torus is then considered, in which the electrodynamic tether generates useful electrical power of about 1 kW with a 20-km-long electrodynamic tether from the environmental plasma without losing orbital energy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-393
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Propulsion and Power
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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