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Cornell University Artificial Gravity Satellite

Student Run Engineering CubeSat Team


Zero-gravity effects on the human body are a prominent focus of research for future long-term human spaceflight. There is growing interest in space and more people now have a chance to travel into low earth orbit for extended periods of time for more than just zero-gravity research such as on the ISS. Many proposals have been written for large spinning torus space stations without consideration of the practical and the buildable. No purposeful or sustained simulated gravity mission has ever been demonstrated in space.

The mission goal is to demonstrate the full functional life cycle of a tethered spacecraft to spin up and provide simulated gravity at a tether distance great enough that rotation rates would be comfortable for humans. Here we propose a 3-U CubeSat mission. The three component satellites will separate in orbit connected by a 15-meter tether on each side. The 15-meter radius system produces 0.38 gees, the equivalent of Martian gravity, when spun at a 4.75 rpm which is the maximum for allowable rate for human comfort.

The lack of fully implemented experiments and the abundance of theoretical work on this subject provides the perfect conditions for a student experiment. This achievable mission will demonstrate that the dream of simulated in space gravity is far more achievable than 1960’s artist renderings make them seem. A successful mission will provide a useful precedence for larger organizations to build off of and reduce the perceived risk of their systems


The ninth manned flight of the Gemini missions saw a rendezvous between the Agena Target Vehicle and the manned capsule. In 1966, from September 12 to 15, astronauts Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr. and Richard F. Gordon, Jr. performed the first tethered spinning experiment in space. The combined system did not cause the tethered to go taut in the presence of only the gravitational gradient as anticipated. But by firing their side boosters the astronauts were able to achieve 0.00015 gees on the 100-foot tether. At one point Conrad said:

“This tether’s doing something I never thought it would do. It’s like the Agena and l have a skip rope between us and it’s rotating and making a big loop… Man! Have we got a weird phenomenon going on here. This will take somebody a little time to figure out… I can’t get it straight”.

Agena vehicle as seen from the Gemini XI capsule

This kind of phenomenon is exactly what our mission is to investigate and control.

For updates on the mission please see the site’s blog

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