Dynamics and stability of spinning flexible space tether systems

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Tyc, George
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This dissertation focuses on a detailed dynamical investigation of a previously unexplored tether configuration that involves a spinning two-body tethered system with flexible appendages on each end-body where the spin axis is nominally aligned along the tether. The original motivation for this work came after the flight of the first Canadian sub-orbital tether mission OEDIPUS-A in 1989 which employed this spinning tethered configuration. To everyone's surprise, one of the end-bodies was observed to exhibit a rapid divergence of its nutation angle. It was clear after this flight that there were some fundamental mechanisms associated with the interaction between the tether and the end-body that were not fully understood at that time. Hence, a Tether Dynamics Experiment (TDE) was formed and became a formal part of the scientific agenda for the follow-on mission OEDIPUS-C which flew in 1995. This dissertation describes the work that was conducted as part of the TDE and involves: theoretical investigations intothe dynamics of this spinning tethered flexible body system; ground testing to validate the models and establish the tether properties; application of the models to develop a stabilization approach for OEDIPUS-C, and comparisons between theory and flight data from both OEDIPUS-A and OEDIPUS-C. Nonlinear equations of motion are developed for spinning tethered system where the tether could be either spinning with the end-bodies or attached to small de-spun platforms on the end-bodies. Since the tether used for the OEDIPUS missions is not a string, as is often assumed, but rather a wire that has some bending stiffness, albeit small, the tether bending was also taken into account in the formulation. Two sets of ground tests are described that were used to validate the stability conditions and gain confidence in the mathematical models. One set involved hanging a body by a tether and spinning at different speeds to investigate the end-body stability. The other set used a tethered spinning end-body suspended on a set of gimbals and had a means to measure the end-body attitude in real-time. The mathematical models were then applied to investigate suitable stabilization approaches for OEDIPUS-C. In general, very good agreement was found between the theory and both the ground experiments and flight data. One of the surprising results from this work is the significance of the tether root bending effects. It is shown that it is this subtle effect that caused the rapid divergence in one of the end-bodies in the OEDIPUS-A mission which was unstable. For OEDIPUS-C, the situation was rectified by adding the booms to ensure "short term" stability and also by not spinning as rapidly. The OEDIPUS-C was very successful as all systems worked as planned and hence a superb set of flight dynamics data was collected. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)