Sanmartín Losada, Juan Ramón and Charro, Mario
Performance of coupled ED-tether/ion thrsuter system.
In: "9th Spacecraft Charging Technology Conference", 4-8 apr 2005, Tsukuba, Japan.
Use of propulsion systems that couple electyrodynamic tethers to ion thrusters, as suggested in the literature, is
discussed. The system establishes electrical contact with the ionospheric plasma, at the anodic end of the tether, by
ejecting ions instead of collecting electrons; also, the ion thruster adds its thrust to the Lorentz force on the tether. In this paper, we analyze the performance of this coupled system, as measured by the ratio of mission impulse (thrust times mission duration) to the overall system mass, which includes the power subsystem mass, the tether subsystem mass, and the propellant mass consumed in the ion thruster. It is shown that a tether acting by itself, collecting electrons at its anodic end, substantially outperforms the coupled system for times longer than a characteristic time of the ion thruster, for which propellant mass equals the power subsystem mass; for shorter times performances are shown to be similar.