Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI) has been awarded a contract from NASA to develop enhancements to smallsat tether deorbit systems using its passive coatings and active cold cathode electron gun based on its negative electron affinity-enhanced triple-point electron emitter to enable propellant-less deorbit from altitudes to 1100 km by increasing the generated current through electrodynamic tethers.
PSI is developing passive and active enhancements to heritage electrodynamic tether smallsat deorbit systems. Passive coatings based on flexible materials with negative electron affinity-enhanced triple-point electron emitters will enable propellant-less deorbit from altitudes up to at least 1100 km by increasing the passively generated current through electrodynamic tethers. The active component of PSI’s system, embodied by a robust, self-powered and self-regulated cold cathode electron gun, will further increase deorbit rate and altitude while also giving a host satellite control over deorbit parameters. This active deorbit system is entirely electric and requires no propellant, dramatically reducing size, weight and power requirements versus traditional active deorbit systems and services. Both the active and passive deorbit components leverage past work PSI has performed for the US Space Force and for NASA. PSI is also partnering with Tethers Unlimited Inc. (TUI) to adapt the passive and active electrodynamic tether enhancement to their existing, heritage terminator tape (TT) deorbit systems. In Phase I, PSI demonstrated proof of concept for the new tether enhancement technologies. In Phase II, PSI will apply the new technologies to TUI’s TT system, producing prototypes available to NASA for future deployment on demonstration missions following the Phase II program.
For more information contact:
Dr. Julia Dupuis
Executive Vice President, Optical Systems
Physical Sciences Inc.
Office: (978) 689-0003
Acknowledgement of Sponsorship: This work is supported under a contract with NASA Stennis Space Center. This support does not constitute an express or implied endorsement on the part of the Government.