Flexible Electromagnetic Leash Docking system (FELDs)

research area: technology tests

experiment title:

Flexible Electromagnetic Leash Docking system (FELDs)

experiment acronym: DYT

funding agency:

ESA (Education) / ZARM

grant number:

Drop Your Thesis! - Program

performing organization:

Center for Studies and Activities for Space CISAS "G.Colombo", University of Padova, Italy

prime investigator:

Prof. Alessandro Francesconi

(Davide Petrillo, Alessandro Cavinato, Federico Chiariotti, Marco Gaino, Marco Buonomo)

experiment objective


FELDs is a technology demonstrator that tests the performance of an innovative tethered soft docking system. Our experiment aims to understand the low gravity behavior of the proposed technology by studying the dynamic response of the capture system and its effects on the impacted spacecraft.

The experiment main objective is to build and test an electromagnetic docking system that guarantees a mechanical connection through the use of a flexible wire. The docking is performed by launching a ferromagnetic probe towards the target, which attracts it with a static magnetic field. As the connection between the probe and the launching spacecraft is flexible, the system is self-adjusting, with no need for precise positioning and attitude control.

We aim to accomplish our objective by performing a number of docking attempts in realistic orbital conditions; our experiment consists of a model of the proposed docking system, with two subsytems that represent the two spacecraft. As the LEO orbit environment is similar to the microgravity conditions during a ZARM drop, the experiment is a realistic test of the technology and our dynamics measurements will be applicable in future studies and prototypes.

According to our bibliographic research, tethered docking is still a largely unexplored field, although the interest in this technology is growing in the international space community. If the test validates the technology, our results will be a proven basis for future prototypes and similar technologies.

related publications

  • Flexible Electromagnetic Leash Docking system (FELDs), Drop Your Thesis! 2014 - Final Report. ESA Human Spaceflight and Exploration, Erasmus Experiment Archive

experiment campaigns

experiment year: 2014
number of drops: 5