Space tethers are cables that connect satellites or other endmasses in orbit. The emptiness of space and the near-weightlessness there make it possible to deploy very long and thin tethers. By exploiting basic principles of physics, tethers can provide propellantless propulsion and enable unique applications such as the provision of comfortable artificial gravity or the removal of space debris. Nevertheless there are still no tether applications in use today - there appears to be a "gap of scepticism".
A safe tether and deployer system has therefore been designed and verified with the help of simulation and innovative ground testing equipment. Through a hands-on educational approach, the YES and YES2 low-cost space tether experiments have been launched into orbit. In September 2007, all 32 km of the YES2 tether are deployed in orbit. With the help of this tether, a student-built re-entry capsule is deorbited over Kazakhstan.
This work reports this design and analysis effort, with the aim to raise confidence in the use of space tethers.