ORBITAL RESULTS FROM GRAVITY-GRADIENT STABILIZED SATELLITES.
JOHNS HOPKINS UNIV SILVER SPRING MD APPLIED PHYSICS LAB
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The possibility of using the earths gravity field for vertical stabilization of near-earth satellites has intrigued theoreticians for many years. The very small stabilizing torque available and the lack of a natural damping mechanism have been recognized as the major problems. The satellite 1963-22A, launched in June 1963, was the first orbiting vehicle to achieve passive gravity-gradient stabilization. A 100-foot extendible boom was used to develop gravity-gradient stabilizing torque. A combination of a lossy spring and magnetic hysteresis rods provided damping. By June 1964 four other satellites had achieved gravity-gradient stabilization. The satellite 1964-26A was similar to 1963-22A except that good damping was achieved with magnetic hysteresis rods alone. The discovery that several slender rods of magnetic material, weighing only 0.6 pounds and entirely passive, would damp gravity-gradient librations by interaction with the earths magnetic field was a major advance in space technology. The accuracy of vertical stabilization has typically been better than 10 degrees. Author
- Spacecraft Trajectories and Reentry