Miniature Tether Electrodynamics Experiment (MiTEE) Proof-of-Concept Space Mission Design
Designing a nanospacecraft and space mission will help us better understand the feasibility of a novel propulsion technology – miniature electrodynamic (ED) tethers – as means to provide propellantless propulsion to new classes of very small satellites known as picosats and femtosats. These spacecraft can be the size of your smartphone and smaller. The Miniature Tether Electrodynamics Experiment (MiTEE) team is demonstrating this propulsion technology in space for the first time.
Traditional space missions employ one or a few massive spacecraft that make sophisticated, remote, or in situ single-point measurements. However, coordinated fleets (tens to hundreds) of relatively-simple pico- or femtosats could provide the game- changing ability to perform simultaneous, multi-point measurements in space or, alternatively, compose elements in a sparse, space-based, reconfigurable antenna array. These capabilities could fundamentally transform monitoring of natural disasters, space weather, and the broader space environment. Propellantless propulsion technology could allow these small satellites to maneuver and maintain their orbits and formations without the need for large amounts of propellant and storage tanks. Studies have shown that electrodynamic tethers may be that key enabling propellantless propulsion technology.
The key questions MiTEE will answer will help us understand the physical dynamics (how it moves) and electrodynamics (how current is attracted from and emitted to the surround ionosphere and flows through the conducting tether generating thrust) central to the system’s operation.
The MiTEE team is currently on track to launch its first spacecraft (i.e., MiTEE 1) in Late 2019 which will create future opportunities for campaign-style data collection. In addition to MiTEE1 science operations, the team will be working on its more ambitious second satellite: MiTEE 2. This project will be to create a spacecraft with an operational ED tether for the first experimental testing of propellantless operation in space.
NOTE: Students who join this faculty research team will become de facto members of the Student Space Systems Fabrication Lab (S3FL).
Meeting time and location
The full MiTEE team historically meets weekly on Sundays from 1pm to 4pm at the Climate and Space Research Building. In addition, each subsystem team arranges a convenient time to meet and work together on a weekly basis.
Each MiTEE subsystem team has a Lead that reports to and meets
once per week with the other Leads and the MiTEE Systems team (Chief Engineer, Lead Systems Engineer, Project Manager, and faculty PI). The teams are flexibly structured to enhance creativity and opportunity for student growth with work currently focused on MiTEE1 operations, the MiTEE1-to-MiTEE2 transition, and ongoing MiTEE2 R&D.