Stability and Bifurcation Analysis of a Spinning Space Tether
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A detailed, geometrically exact bifurcation analysis is performed for a model of a power-generating tethered device of interest to the space industries. The structure, a short electrodynamic tether, comprises a thin, long rod that is spun in a horizontal configuration from a satellite in low Earth orbit, with a massive electrically conducting disk at its free end. The system is modelled using a Cosserat formulation leading to a system of Kirchhoff equations for the rod's shape as a function of position and time. Moving to a rotating frame, incorporating the effects of internal damping, intrinsic curvature due to the deployment method and novel force and moment boundary conditions at the contactor, the problem for steady rotating solutions is formulated as a two-point boundary value problem. Using numerical continuation methods, a bifurcation analysis is carried out varying rotation speeds up to many times the critical resonance frequency. Spatial finite differences are used to formulate the stability problem for each steady state and the corresponding eigenvalues are computed. The results show excellent agreement with earlier multibody dynamics simulations of the same problem.
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