EDDE spacecraft development for active LEO debris removal

Jerome Pearson, Joseph Carroll, Eugene Levin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

8 Scopus citations


EDDE, the ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminator, is a persistently maneuverable propellantless "taxi" vehicle for low Earth orbit (LEO). EDDE allows affordable wholesale removal of large LEO debris, preventing collisions that is otherwise likely to be the main future source of untracked debris lethal to spacecraft, and the main driver of debris costs. EDDE can also distribute secondary payloads to custom orbits, and deliver service modules to serviceable spacecraft throughout LEO. EDDE consists mostly of a multi-kilometer reinforced aluminum foil tape that collects and conducts electrons, plus solar arrays to drive the current. Hot wires emit electrons back into the ambient plasma, allowing external closure of the current loop. EDDE's maneuver force comes from current in the tape crossing geomagnetic field lines. EDDE slowly rotates to tension and stabilize itself. Adjusting the current around each rotation and each orbit lets EDDE adjust all 6 orbit elements plus rotation axis and rate. Rotation allows persistent directable net thrust even in polar orbit. Accurate control enables capture of large debris in expendable gossamer nets. If EDDE captures ton-class objects at 750-1000 km altitude and releases them below ISS, debris throughput can approach EDDE's own mass per day, or nearly 30 tons/year for an 80 kg EDDE. Two such EDDEs can fit in one ESPA secondary payload slot on any Delta 4, Atlas 5, or Falcon 9 launch with enough payload margin. A full ESPA ring with 12 EDDEs can deorbit most LEO debris mass in <10 years. We matured EDDE design, components, and operating concepts under a recent 2-year contract with the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate at Langley Research Center. This paper describes EDDE's design and operations, rendezvous and capture concepts, the costs of orbital debris and challenges associated with removing it, and plans for a 12U EDDE flight test. The test can include both payload delivery and imaging of selected US-owned debris, to quantify rendezvous errors.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication65th International Astronautical Congress 2014, IAC 2014
Subtitle of host publicationOur World Needs Space
PublisherInternational Astronautical Federation, IAF
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781634399869
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
Event65th International Astronautical Congress 2014: Our World Needs Space, IAC 2014 - Toronto, Canada
Duration: 29 Sep 20143 Oct 2014

Publication series

NameProceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, IAC
ISSN (Print)0074-1795


Conference65th International Astronautical Congress 2014: Our World Needs Space, IAC 2014


FundersFunder number
National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationNNL12AA01C


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