MadSci Network: Physics

Re: static electricity in space

Date: Tue May 1 23:12:37 2001
Posted By: Todd Engelman, , Aerospace Engineer, US Air Force, C-130 Technical Coordination Group
Area of science: Physics
ID: 986694883.Ph


There have been tests to harness this electric potential for use in space.
Just like an electric generator develops electricity by passing wires
through a magnetic field, a metal wire passing through the earths magnetic
field in space will also produce electricity.  The type of electricity
generated would be direct current.  

In the early 1996, the Space Shuttle Columbia (Mission STS-75) carried 
a 1/2 ton satellite that would stay connected to the Space Shuttle with a
12.8 mile long tether to test this method of generating electricity.  This
mission failed when about six hours into the deployment, the tether broke.
Four years early they had attempted this same test, but only got the
satellite reeled out 840 feet when the tether snagged on a bolt.  More
information about the STS-75 tether experiement can be found at

Despite the failure of the experiment, the electicity generated by the
tether as it was extending matched predictions.  This means the experiment
proved the computer models, and show that tethers could be used for
electricity generation in the future.

Hope this helps.
Todd Engelman
Aerospace Engineer

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