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COBRA Extension of the IRIDES Experiment 13/702

Programme Reference
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The COBRA (COntactless deBRis Action) concept was studied under ESA contract and then internally by ESA, as part of ESA ́s SysNova technology assessment scheme which uses “technology challenges” and competitions to survey a comparatively large number of alternative solutions. The concept was originally proposed by an industrial consortium led by GMV form Spain with Politecnico di Milano and Thales Alenia Space from Italy. The concept came first in response to a challenge for mission concepts and technologies capable of providing a contactless Earth-bound object orbit modification system. Thus, COBRA is an active debris removal concept studied by ESA’s Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) relying on the exhaust plume of a monopropellant chemical propulsion system as a means to impart momentum and ultimately modify the dynamics of a space debris object in a contactless manner, either to control its attitude dynamics or to deorbit it. An interaction of such kind (intentional or unintentional) has never been studied before in any detail beyond chemical contamination effects. As proposed in COBRA, the effect might be taken as further advantage during a rendezvous and capture phase with an uncooperative object (to complement direct systems such as a robotic arm) in e.g. active debris removal operations by reducing the tumbling rate of the target before capture.

Executive summary