Energy Projects
Electrodynamic Tether Photos
Deployment of the Tether Satellite

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Boom Deploy
Initial Deploy
Satellite Deployed

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Closeup of boom showing tether
Close up of end of boom
Tether Break
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The tether deployed to one mile 

Shortly after the breakreak

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The tether coils as it moves away from the Shuttle
The base of the tether boom. The area looks more like a Tesla Laboratory than the space shuttle hanger bay.
After the Break

The following three images are those displayed for the public showing the white specks that appearall around the tether after it has broken free. NASA calls these "dust and debris" particles, though Mission control in the audio portion of the videos state that they see a "lot of stuff swimming around" and that the tether is wider than expected.

If you compare these images to the ones we captured from a hard to find high resolution copy of the video on this page you will see a remarkale difference. The video is a must see.

Video Clip
STS-75 'The Tether Incident' Feb 1996
Editors Note: This video has been removed several times by Youtube. Currently it is available again. If it does get removed again, email me and I can send you a copy as we have it on disk now. Contact me at webmaster
This one is from the hand held Infrared Camera and is not as clear as the other one was  STS-75 Alternate Copy

What is most interesting to note is that most of the video clips above are taken from this video, yet NASA does not show the video itself. The copy on Youtube is a transmission intercept copy. However the fact that the NASA info site DOES use those clips gives credibility to the video that it is indeed a NASA film - Zorgon

Tethered Satellite System (TSS-1R)
Source of Clips: NASA STS-75 Mission Pictures

Kennedy Space Center STS-75 Mission Fact Sheet 

"Critters" from STS-75

The Report After the Fact

Low Earth Orbit Spacecraft Charging Design Guidelines

Below are a few keynote excerpts from the PDF file. The entire 367 page document is available below for those with technically savy who want to read the entire paper...

Excerpt 1:

In the case of the TSS-1R tether, its 20 km length produced a maximum of about 3500 V potential between its most positive and negative ends, since it wasn?t oriented perfectly perpendicular to the velocity vector and the Earth?s magnetic field. A satellite at its upper end collected electrons, and an electron gun at the lower end emitted electrons to complete the circuit. When the electron gun was not in operation, a large resistance prevented the Shuttle from being biased thousands of volts negative of its surrounding plasma. However, there remained a large voltage between the tether lower end and the Shuttle orbiter. This enormous bias eventually led to a continuous arc on the tether (see The Continuous Arc, section below), which broke, freeing the satellite and ending the experiment. During the arc, the satellite collected over 1 Amp of electron current to keep the arc going. Probe theory (Cohen et al, 19870010625 N) is usually used to calculate the total current collected by a wire with distributed potentials. However, before the break, TSS-1R demonstrated that a satellite at a high positive potential could collect an anomalously large electron current. See Zhang, et al (20000110580), Stone and Raitt (19990084046 and 20000025437), and Stone, et al (19980202347)
Excerpt 2:

Sustained arcs (continuous arcs) - These are the events that have been attributed with the destruction of on-orbit solar arrays. Generally, the process begins with a fast transient (a so-called trigger arc). Under some conditions, the transient develops into an arc that is fed directly by the entire array, effectively becoming a short-circuit. Such events invariably involve large quantities of energy and can be severely damaging to cells, interconnects or power traces.
Excerpt 3:
When the structure or array capacitance electrically connected to the arc site is sufficiently large, the initial transient arcs themselves can be large enough to produce significant damage. In Figure 9, we see an anodized aluminum plate that has undergone repeated arcing in the laboratory with the ISS structure capacitance attached. Its thermal properties have been completely destroyed, along with most of the insulating surface layer of aluminum oxide.
Excerpt 4:

The most famous sustained arc event of all led to the breakage of the TSS-1R electrodynamic tether, and the loss of the attached satellite. The image below shows the burned, frayed and broken tether end still attached to the Shuttle after the break. Incidentally, the tether continued arcing long after it and its satellite were drifting free, until finally it went into night conditions where the electron density was insufficient to sustain the arc. Noel Sargent (2002) has investigated whether the TSS-1R arc was seen to disrupt Shuttle communications. Although he has found no record of disturbed communications during the event, for most of the time the arc was shielded by metallic structures from the communications antennas, and when the tether broke, the arc was many meters from the receiving antennas. It remains to be seen whether sustained arcs produce radio noise severe enough to be a communications problem.


This is official confirmation that the tether continued to produce plasma energy long after it broke free, accounting for the "fluorescent bulb" glowing effect viewed after. We believe this concentrated collection of plasma energy is what attracted the "swarm" of "critters" to a "feeding frenzy"

To get the full PDF file you can download

Tether Optical Phenomena Experiment (TOP)

Using a hand-held camera system with image intensifiers and special filters, the TOP investigation will provide visual data that may allow scientists to answer a variety of questions concerning tether dynamics and optical effects generated by TSS-1R. In particular, this experiment will examine the high-voltage plasma sheath surrounding the satellite...

In one mode of operation, the current developed in the Tethered Satellite System is closed by using electron accelerators to return electrons to the plasma surrounding the orbiter. The interaction between these electron beams and the plasma is not well understood...

Associate Investigator: Stephen Mende, Lockheed Martin


The Report After the Fact
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Critters ~ Critters 01 ~ Critters 02 ~ Critters 03

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