Damage of twisted tape tethers on debris collision

Yoshiyuki Uwamino, Michihiro Fujiwara, Honoka Tomizaki, Kiyonobu Ohtani, Kanjuro Makihara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The amount of space debris will increase in the future because of collisions with other debris, even if no future space launches are carried out. Therefore, debris removal is essential for sustainable space development. The electrodynamic tether system is a promising method to remove debris because it does not require any propellants; however, it can be severed by a collision with a small piece of debris. As a tape tether is wider and thinner than a conventional solid cylindrical tether, it may overcome this drawback. The tape tether, however, can be twisted and transformed to a non-ideal shape. This paper considers a scenario in which the tape tether is twisted to create a loop shape. Every impact generates a debris cloud, which may subsequently impact another part of the tether that happens to be located in the direction the debris cloud is emitted to. This could cause a cascade effect where a single impact results in multiple collisions that lead to significant damage of the tether. Through hypervelocity impact experiments, collisions on the loop part are evaluated to gain new insights into the loop phenomenon of the tape tether system. Based on the experimental results, the rate of severance of the tape tether was compared with that of the conventional solid cylindrical tether. When only a small part of the tape tether is in loops, the rate of severance of the tape tethers is much lower than that of the conventional solid cylindrical tethers. Hence, tape tethers have a considerable advantage over conventional tethers when the looped range is narrow.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103440
JournalInternational Journal of Impact Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Mar


  • Debris removal
  • Electrodynamic tether
  • Hypervelocity impact
  • Space debris
  • Tape tether

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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