On-orbit demonstration of electrodynamic tether on the H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV)（Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiments (KITE)）
To preserve the outer space environment for future generations, it is necessary to remove existing large pieces of space debris that can generate numerous debris by mutual collisions.
Electrodynamic tether (EDT), an advanced high-efficiency propulsion system, is a promising candidate to deorbit the debris objects at low cost.
JAXA plans to perform Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiments (KITE) in order to establish and demonstrate EDT technology and to obtain some EDT characteristics, such as tether deployment dynamics, and electron emission and collection in space plasma.
The Value of Our Research
A collision between large pieces of orbital debris poses an especially large threat to space safety, as it can potentially generate countless smaller pieces of debris. The removal of large debris is therefore one of the most effective solutions for securing safe space missions.
JAXA is taking a first step to spearhead efforts towards space debris removal by conducting KITE to demonstrate the deployment of the tether and current drive through the tether.
KITE will help us identify the features and key technologies necessary to design and develop an EDT system as a method for improving space safety by removing large debris.
Deployment characteristics of the tether
Experiment for current drive characteristics (conceptual drawing)
An end-mass of about 20 kg will be released from the releasing mechanism onboard the HTV. The 700-m tether will be deployed using reels inside the end-mass.
The deployment motion will be observed using rendezvous sensors onboard the HTV to monitor docking with the ISS, and reflectors on the end-mass. Optical cameras are also installed on the HTV beside the base of the tether.
Current drive characteristics
When electrons will be emitted from an electron emitter onboard the HTV, the electrons will be collected from the ambient plasma by bare (uninsulated) tether. Thus the electric current flows through the tether and current-voltage characteristics of the tether will be obtained. The HTV potential, ambient plasma, and geomagnetic field will be measured using a potential monitor with a plasma current probe and magnetic sensor.
Experiment for current drive characteristics