Electrical behavior of a Shuttle Electrodynamic Tether System (SETS)

P. M. Banks, P. R. Williamson, K. I. Oyama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Many novel electrodynamic and space plasma physics experiments can be done from the space shuttle using a gravity gradient stabilized sub-satellite tethered 10-30 km above the Orbiter via a long, conducting wire which is insulated from the ionospheric plasma. This system, called the Shuttle Electrodynamic Tether System (SETS), is described in the present paper with emphasis upon the various electrical processes which determine its coupling to the ambient plasma. The three most important physical effects include sheath formation and electron collection by the sub-satellite, the generation of a large emf through the orbital motion of the tether across geomagnetic field lines, and the active ejection of electrons from the Orbiter into the surrounding ionosphere. An electrical circuit analogy is presented for SETS together with a brief outline of possible areas related to the artificial generation of magnetohydrodynamic waves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-147
Number of pages9
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1981 Feb

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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