The space debris population has been growing steadily since Sputnik was launched in 1957. Recently, the risk of cascaded collisions between debris has become a concern, as this has the ability to render certain popular orbits too risky to continue using. Debris mitigation is important to limit the growth of the debris population, but active debris removal has been found to be necessary to keep the current debris quantity from growing. An active debris removal mission consists of a chaser spacecraft performing a rendezvous with a target object, capturing it, and towing it to a disposal orbit or into the atmosphere. Capturing the debris has challenges because of residual angular momentum present in the uncooperative debris. This paper examines techniques for dissipating the angular momentum present in a target debris using visco-elastic tethers, through numerical simulations and planar experiments in the Spacecraft Robotics and Control Laboratory at Carleton University. Both simulation and experimental results agree that a tether configuration with multiple tether attachment points on a target is significantly faster at stabilizing a spinning debris than the currently accepted single tether configuration.

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Conference AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference, 2017
Hovell, K. (Kirk), & Ulrich, S. (2017). Experimental validation for tethered capture of spinning space debris. In AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference, 2017. doi:10.2514/6.2017-1049