Charge determination for specified shape Coulomb force virtual structures

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics


The focus of this paper is the generation of high Earth orbit (HEO) Coulomb force structures. These structures are characterized by a set of charge carrying nodes, but no interconnecting struts. By correctly setting the node charges, the inter-node Coulomb forces create a static, crystal-like structure. The uniqueness of the work is the examination of how to form specified shape structures using a subset of all available nodes. In addition, the plasma shielding effect is considered explicitly. An equilateral triangle structure example is given to illustrate the approach where 5 nodes are used in the structure, 3 of which are used to satisfy an equilateral triangle shape goal. The example also illustrates that practical Coulomb structures should have inter-node separation distances in the 10s of meters range or less. Copyright © 2006 by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc.

Publication Title

Collection of Technical Papers - AIAA/ASME/ASCE/AHS/ASC Structures, Structural Dynamics and Materials Conference