Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

YES2 team claims a space tether world record

09.11.2007
On 25 September, students around the world watched with bated breath as their creation, the second Young Engineers Satellite (YES2) experiment, reached its dramatic conclusion.

A day before the Foton-M3 spacecraft returned to Earth, a small re-entry capsule, named Fotino, was to be released from the end of a 30 km tether, the longest such structure ever to be deployed in space. However, no signal was ever received from Fotino and its fate has been uncertain ever since.

First indications, based on real-time data processed by the YES2 flight computer and released by Russian mission controllers, suggested that the tether only unwound about 8.5 km before Fotino was cut free, but engineers wanted to know the full story of Fotino’s final hours. Now, after weeks of careful analysis, the YES2 team has informed the ESA Mission Review Board of its findings.

“All of the data we now have available point to the fact that the tether unwound fully before the Fotino capsule was released,” said Roger Walker, YES2 project manager for ESA’s Education Office. “This means that the most challenging part of the mission was completed and that YES2 smashed the world record for the longest man-made object flown in space.”

“This outcome can be regarded as a triumph for the students who contributed many hours of hard work to bring YES2 to fruition.”

The team of engineers from ESA’s technical centre, ESTEC, and prime contractor Delta-Utec has been piecing together the events of 25 September using evidence from a number of direct and indirect sources. Some of the most important clues have been provided by the YES2 data stored in the TeleSupport Unit, which recorded all of the data from the ESA experiments on Foton-M3. This data included raw unprocessed data about the rate at which the tether was unwinding.

“By looking at the data from the tether deployment speed sensors, we are able to determine how much of the tether was unwound and how quickly it deployed,” said Michiel Kruijff, lead system engineer for Delta-Utec. “We can tell that the deployment was accelerating in the later stages, rather than slowing down as we first believed. We have also found that the tether deployed to a minimum of 29.5 km, or more likely to its full length of 31.7 km, at high speed.”

Other indirect evidence comes from the orbital behaviour of the Foton-M3 spacecraft. Data from the U.S. Space Surveillance Network, which was tracking Foton-M3, show that the spacecraft moved about 1300 metres higher in its orbit when the Fotino capsule was cut free from its tether, as expected for a 30 km tether. However, the tracking data offer no evidence that Fotino remained in orbit around the Earth, leading the YES2 team to conclude that it re-entered the atmosphere immediately after its release.

“It seems that the braking and control mechanism did not work as expected in the later stages of deployment due to an intermittent fault in the flight computer’s real-time processing of the deployment sensor data,” said Marco Stelzer, the mission analyst in the ESA YES2 team. “This leaves us with two possible scenarios. The tether may have unwound so quickly that it broke free from the reel with the capsule still attached, or the tether jerked to a halt at the end of its deployment, allowing the capsule to be released close to its nominal position.”

Further clues will become available in the coming weeks after the YES2 team receives the complete acceleration and orientation dataset from the DIMAC (Direct Measurement micro-Accelerometer) experiment that flew on board Foton-M3. Additional information about the orbit of Foton is also expected from GPS data acquired by a student experiment from Samara State Aerospace University, one of four University Centres of Expertise that contributed significantly to the project.

“Unfortunately, we received no data from Fotino, so at the present time we have no way of knowing the fate of small capsule,” said Roger Walker. “It may have burnt up on re-entry, it may have crash-landed, it may have touched down in difficult terrain somewhere in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan or Siberia, or its radio beacon did not transmit. However, this is the first time that a tether has de-orbited a re-entry capsule, therefore we are very satisfied that the most novel and challenging parts of the SpaceMail concept have been demonstrated.”

Further information

YES2 was one of the ESA-provided payloads on board the Foton-M3 microgravity mission. The Foton spacecraft and the piggybacking YES2 payload were launched by a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on 14 September. The YES2 experiment was installed on top of the battery pack of the Foton-M3 capsule.

The 6 kg Fotino capsule was attached to the end of a 0.5 mm thick, 31.7 km long tether. Once the tether unwound and deployment stopped smoothly at 30km, the Fotino capsule was to be automatically released by a pyrotechnic device and sent on a return path to Earth’s surface through the atmosphere and landing safely by parachute in a pre-determined location. The objective was to demonstrate the ‘SpaceMail’ concept of delivering parcels back to Earth from an orbiting spacecraft using only a tether.

Almost 500 students from most ESA Member States and Associated States, together with the United States, Russia, Japan and Australia, worked on YES2. Although these were mainly involved in the preliminary design phase, some 60 students participated in the latter stages of developing and building hardware and software.

Future education satellite projects already under development by the ESA Education Office include the European Student Earth Orbiter (ESEO), to be launched in 2010, and the European Student Moon Orbiter (ESMO), currently planned for 2011.

Roger Walker | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMUI053R8F_index_0.html

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht The TU Ilmenau develops tomorrow’s chip technology today
27.04.2017 | Technische Universität Ilmenau

nachricht Five developments for improved data exploitation
19.04.2017 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>