By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor
NASA has awarded a $1.9 million contract to a South Carolina company for the development of the ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminator (EDDE) vehicle, which is designed to clean up the growing debris problem in low Earth orbit.
Star Technology and Research (STAR) was awarded the contract under NASA’s Game Changing Technology program. STAR President Jerome Pearson is the project’s principal investigator.
“This is a new contract that started last month and will run for 2 years,” said Joe Carroll of Tether Applications, which is partnered on the project. “The focus is maturing technologies for EDDE on the ground; we may get a flight experiment later if the work goes well.”
According to STAR PowerPoint presentations, the vehicle is “based on the use of our electrodynamic thruster for space propulsion” and has the following features:
- Small vehicles that can be launched piggyback to larger satellites
- Propellantless, reusable space vehicles with virtually unlimited delta-V using solar power and electrodynamic thrust
- Maneuverable over all of low Earth orbit at any inclination
- Reusable, each capable of removing many targets
- Compact and lightweight—just 100 kg (220 lb), packs into 0.11 m3 (4 ft3)
- Captures debris with lightweight nets or grappler
- Single EDDE could capture 136 US sun-synchronous objects (68 tons) in 3 years
- 12 EDDEs could remove all 2,565 pieces (2,166 metric tons) of LEO debris greater than 2 kg in 7 years
According to a NASA budget document, STAR is to provide the space agency “with an advanced, sub-scale tether, and complete the manufacture and functional testing of this prototype for a tether-based in-space propulsion system” during the 2013 Fiscal Year, which begins on Oct. 1.
The company previously received funding for EDDE under the U.S. Navy’s Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program. The SBIR Phase 1 study was completed in 2010.