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of the estonian academy of sciences
ISSN 1736-7530 (Electronic)
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E-sail test payload of the ESTCube-1 nanosatellite; pp. 210–221

Full article in PDF format | doi: 10.3176/proc.2014.2S.02

Jouni Envall, Pekka Janhunen, Petri Toivanen, Mihkel Pajusalu, Erik Ilbis, Jaanus Kalde, Matis Averin, Henri Kuuste, Kaspars Laizans, Viljo Allik, Timo Rauhala, Henri Seppänen, Sergiy Kiprich, Jukka Ukkonen, Edward Haeggström, Taneli Kalvas, Olli Tarvainen, Janne Kauppinen, Antti Nuottajärvi, Hannu Koivisto


The scientific mission of ESTCube-1, launched in May 2013, is to measure the electric solar wind sail (E-sail) force in orbit. The experiment is planned to push forward the development of the E-sail, a propulsion method recently invented at the Finnish Meteorological Institute. The E-sail is based on extracting momentum from the solar wind plasma flow by using long thin electrically charged tethers. ESTCube-1 is equipped with one such tether, together with hardware capable of deploying and charging it. At the orbital altitude of ESTCube-1 (660–680 km) there is no solar wind present. Instead, ESTCube-1 shall observe the interaction between the charged tether and the ionospheric plasma. The ESTCube-1 payload uses a 10-m, partly two-filament E-sail tether and a motorized reel on which it is stored. The tether shall be deployed from a spinning satellite with the help of centrifugal force. An additional mass is added at the tip of the tether to assist with the deployment. During the E-sail experiment the tether shall be charged to 500 V potential. Both positive and negative voltages shall be experimented with. The voltage is provided by a dedicated high-voltage source and delivered to the tether through a slip ring contact. When the negative voltage is applied to the tether, the satellite body is expected to attract the electron flow capable of compensating for the ion flow, which runs to the tether from the surrounding plasma. With the positive voltage applied, onboard cold cathode electron guns are used to remove excess electrons to maintain the positive voltage of the tether. In this paper we present the design and structure of the tether payload of ESTCube-1.



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